Bears to retire Ditka's number

The Chicago Bears will retire the No. 89 worn by Hall of Fame tight end and former head coach Mike Ditka.

The ceremony will take place during halftime of the Bears' Dec. 9 game against the Dallas Cowboys, another of Ditka's teams.

"Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about," said team chairman George H. McCaskey in a statement Friday. "He's an icon. The last time we won a championship Mike Ditka was our coach and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew (that retiring his number) was the right thing to do."

Ditka is the only man in the NFL's modern era to win a title with the same team as both a player and coach. He was a member of the Bears' 1963 title team as a tight end and coached the 1985 squad to the Super Bowl championship.

"It's a tremendous honor," said Ditka. "It's something that I didn't anticipate or expect, but it's a great honor. When you think of all the great Bears players who have had their jerseys retired, I can't say that there's any greater honor. I'm very humbled by it and very thankful that George made the decision to go ahead and do that because it's really great."

Ditka, the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, will become just the 14th player to have his number retired by the Bears.

Selected by the Bears with the fifth overall pick in the 1961 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, Ditka played for Chicago from 1961-66. He was named to five Pro Bowls during his six-year stint with the Bears, then spent two seasons with Philadelphia before playing his final four seasons with Dallas.

Ditka won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys after the 1971 season, then served as an assistant under Tom Landry with Dallas from 1973-81 before returning to the Bears as head coach in 1982.

In 11 seasons with the Bears, he guided the club to a record of 106-62 with six NFC Central titles and the Super Bowl XX championship. That 1985 team went 15-1 during the regular season and produced a pair of shutout victories over the Giants and Rams in the playoffs before a dominating 46-10 win over New England in the Super Bowl.

"He revolutionized the tight end position as a player and grabbed an entire franchise by the throat as a head coach and willed it to victory in the Super Bowl," McCaskey added. "We have more retired numbers than any other team in the NFL. After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers, but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89."

Other Bears to have their numbers retired are Bronko Nagurski (3), George McAfee (5), George Halas (7), Willie Galimore (28), Walter Payton (34), Gale Sayers (40), Brian Piccolo (41), Sid Luckman (42), Dick Butkus (51), Bill Hewitt (56), Bill George (61), Clyde "Bulldog" Turner (66) and Red Grange (77).