Bears part ways with veteran LB Brian Urlacher

ANDREW SELIGMAN AP Sports Writer Published:

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years.

General manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that the team couldn't agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise. He is now a free agent after being slowed by a knee problem and then missing the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury.

"We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," Emery said in a statement. "Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears."

The 34-year-old Urlacher, an eight-time Pro Bowl player, started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles. The ninth overall selection in the 2000 draft has 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was the AP's defensive player of the year in 2005 and helped lead the 2006 team to the Super Bowl.

• Football

Rule changes: The NFL believes it made pro football safer, particularly for defensive players, with rule changes passed at the owners meetings.

Team owners on Wednesday barred ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. The previous day, they eliminated the peel-back block everywhere on the field.

Michigan LB injured: Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday that junior linebacker Jake Ryan is out indefinitely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Ryan was injured Tuesday in practice.

Ryan made a team-high 88 tackles last season, had 4.5 sacks and forced four fumbles. He was an All-Big Ten second team player and was voted the team's top linebacker.

Visiting Broncos: The Denver Broncos are set to talk with free agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham today, 48 hours after they submitted a new contract proposal to Elvis Dumervil.

Pro Bowl in Hawaii: The Pro Bowl will return to Honolulu next January and again will be played the week before the Super Bowl.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday at the owners meetings that the all-star game he once considered scrapping has been scheduled for Aloha Stadium on Jan. 26. He added that Hawaii will be included "on some sort of rotational basis" in any future Pro Bowl scheduling.

• Elsewhere

'Bama AD resigns: Alabama athletic director Mal Moore is stepping down to become special assistant to the president because of health problems after a lengthy reign at his alma mater that ended with the Crimson Tide's football program back on top nationally.

The university announced the move on Wednesday.

New Big East: The breakaway basketball schools kept the Big East name and the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. In return, they left behind tens of millions of dollars to the football members.

That was easy to do with a lucrative television contract awaiting.

The new Big East launched as a 10-member league Wednesday with the additions of Butler, Creighton and Xavier and a 12-year deal with Fox. The agreement is worth about $500 million with the possibility of increasing to $600 million were the league to add more members, according to a person with knowledge of the details.

Under investigation: Syracuse has been under investigation for possible NCAA violations, mostly in its basketball program, for at least a year, according to two media reports.

The Post-Standard reported NCAA investigators have been conducting interviews with Syracuse employees and former employees. The newspaper said the investigation includes the handling of former player Fab Melo's academic eligibility.

In 2012, the star center was declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament days before it started.

"Same story they had last year at this time," coach Jim Boeheim said in San Jose, Calif., before the Orange played Montana in their opening game of the NCAA tournament. "I guess that's annual. I guess next year we'll get it again."

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