Bears LB Urlacher named defensive player of year


Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

CHICAGO - Brian Urlacher was a frustrated man a year ago. He was injured and called overrated as the Chicago Bears struggled through their third straight losing season.

Now?

The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time in four years. And Urlacher, the latest leader of the Monsters of the Midway, won The Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award Friday.

The Bears' star middle linebacker and the public face of a ferocious defense that allowed the fewest points in the league this season, Urlacher adds the honor to his 2000 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

"It's definitely exciting," Urlacher said during a conference call. "It's a big honor. When you look at the great defensive players in this league, there's a bunch of them out there."

But his eyes are on a bigger prize.

"This is my sixth year," Urlacher said. "I really hope I have a long way to go and a lot of stuff to prove in this league. I want a ring. All this stuff is great and good, whoop de do. But I want that Super Bowl ring. I feel like we have a really good chance to do it this year."

Chicago's turnaround from the bottom of the NFC North to 11-5 and division winner was paced by the defense, which yielded 202 points, 45 fewer than Indianapolis, the next-stingiest team. He had 121 tackles, six sacks and a fumble recovery, but stats don't define Urlacher.

Full-field coverage, intimidating hits and big plays do.

And Urlacher did plenty of that this season, after being limited to nine games by leg injuries last season.

"This whole season was a blessing," Urlacher said.

  • OFFENSIVE PLAYER:

    Shaun Alexander's haul of NFL awards has been rapid.

    The Seattle Seahawks running back added The Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year honor, just hours after he was voted the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

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