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Originally published Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 8:42 PM

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Middle linebacker Urlacher face of Bears no more

Brian Urlacher wanted to re-sign with the Chicago Bears. Instead, they're parting ways with the veteran linebacker after 13 years. General manager Phil Emery...

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CHICAGO — Brian Urlacher wanted to re-sign with the Chicago Bears.

Instead, they're parting ways with the veteran linebacker after 13 years.

General manager Phil Emery said Wednesday 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.

"Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade," Emery said in a statement. "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."

Urlacher, 34, an eight-time Pro Bowl player, started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles. The ninth pick in the 2000 draft has 41 ½ sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was AP's defensive player of the year in 2005 and helped lead the 2006 team to the Super Bowl.

Urlacher told WBBM-AM in Chicago that he was not shocked that it came to this.

"I am definitely not surprised. I kind of had this feeling this whole offseason with the way the whole thing was being handled," Urlacher said. "We made an offer, the Bears asked us to make an offer early, so we did. Never heard back from them. They made an offer, we responded to their offer and it was more like an ultimatum is what it was. It was, sign this contract or we are going to move on. And I didn't feel like that was the direction I wanted to go."

The parting with Urlacher is just the latest change in what's been a busy offseason for Chicago.

The Bears fired coach Lovie Smith after a second straight late collapse left them out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, though they won 10 games.

They replaced him with offensive-minded Marc Trestman, who offered lukewarm endorsements when asked in recent weeks about Urlacher.

Reed to Texans?

HOUSTON — Free-agent safety Ed Reed is on the verge of becoming a Houston Texan, according to multiple reports. CBSSports.com reported a deal was in place, and the NFL Network quoted Reed as saying he was headed to Houston "unless something changes."

Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, has played all 11 of his NFL seasons in Baltimore, where he's the franchise leader in interceptions with 61. His 1,541 return yards with those pickoffs is an NFL career record. He was the NFL defensive player of the year in 2004.

Reed's departure would be one more crippling blow to the Ravens, who have been gutted since winning the Super Bowl.

Notes

• 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 the all-star game he once considered scrapping has been scheduled for Aloha Stadium on Jan. 26. Goodell said he was encouraged by the level of performance in this year's game, won 62-35 by the NFC.

• NFL owners passed a player safety rule barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. And the tuck rule, one of the most criticized in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.

• Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Robert Griffin III is "ahead of schedule" in his return from knee surgery. Shanahan said when Griffin comes back, he must learn how to protect himself in the face of the fierce defenses in the NFL.

• Washington Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson was suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Jackson will miss the first four games of the regular season.

• A person familiar with the situation said the Carolina Panthers have agreed to a one-year contract with unrestricted free-agent safety Mike Mitchell.

• The Denver Broncos scheduled meetings with free-agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, 48 hours after they submitted a new contract proposal to Elvis Dumervil.

• In a story about Titans receiver Kenny Britt's driving under the influence trial, AP reported erroneously that Britt was found not guilty of violating the implied consent law. Britt was convicted of violating Kentucky's implied consent law but received no penalty on that charge.

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