Urlacher retires after 13 NFL seasons

Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has announced his retirement from the NFL.

Urlacher, 34, spent his entire career with the Bears after the team selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time first-team All-Pro member, Urlacher finished his illustrious career as one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Urlacher's announcement to retire comes months after he and Chicago parted ways this past offseason because the two could not reach an agreement on a new contract.

"After spending a lot time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made the decision to retire," Urlacher said Wednesday. "Although I could continue playing, I'm not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that's up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.

"I want to thank all the people in my life that have help me along the way," Urlacher continued. "I will miss my teammates, my coaches, and the great Bears fans. I'm proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss the great game, but I leave with no regrets."

The New Mexico product earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and was chosen as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. Over the course of his stellar career, he registered 1,229 tackles, 41 1/2 sacks, 16 fumble recoveries and 22 interceptions over 182 NFL games, 180 of which were starts.

Urlacher, who's also Chicago's all-time career tackles leader, is one of just four players in NFL history to record 40 sacks and 20 interceptions since 1982, when sacks became an official NFL statistic.

"In the pantheon of Bears, Brian has earned his place alongside [George] Halas, [Red] Grange, [Bronko] Nagurski, [Mike] Ditka, [Walter] Payton -- and yes, Bill George, [Dick] Butkus and [Mike} Singletary," Bears chairman George McCaskey said in a statement.

After last season, Urlacher became a free agent, and on March 20, Chicago announced that he would not return to the team in 2013.

"We congratulate Brian on a brilliant career and he will continue to be a welcomed member of the Bears family in retirement," McCaskey said.