One safety with Chicago ties is expected to announce his retirement today.
Another will look for a new place to continue his career.
Rodney Harrison, the Markham native and former star at Marian Catholic, is expected to reveal on a conference call that he will move from the secondary to the broadcast end of the business. Meanwhile, ex-Bear Mike Brown will make a free-agent visit to the Kansas City Chiefs today, a league source told the Sun-Times.
One of the most popular players in post-Super Bowl XX franchise history, the Bears bid goodbye to Brown after this past season when his contract expired. Five years younger than Harrison at 31, Brown is looking to catch on with the Chiefs, who have been re-tooling their defense but lack depth in the secondary. A contract offer is possible and the timing would be ideal as Kansas City's mandatory minicamp is this weekend. Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard are the projected starters but Brown could push them for a job immediately.
Whether he was in San Diego or New England, Harrison was considered a leader, and no one questioned Brown's unquestioned status as the leader and pulse of the Bears' defense for most of the past decade. The only time Brown didn't lead was when he was sidelined by injury, something that happened more than anyone cared for over the last five seasons. Brown missed 44 regular-season games from 2004 to 2008, but was so indispensible when he was on the field that the Bears kept going back to him. A calf muscle injury cut last season short for him by one game.
Brown was one of those rare players that commanded the respect of everyone. Others still rave about him long after they have moved on. With his future uncertain, this last season was trying for him. Brown rebuffed multiple interview requests over the final months as he knew where the questions would lead.
"Mike is a warrior in every sense of the word,'' Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache said in late December. "He may play a step slower than other guys and an inch shorter but he is still one of the most impactful safeties in his time in the league and it is because he understands the game and he understands the team concept and he has intangibles.
"He is what every Dad would wish his son would be. Not that he's better or different than my sons, he's what you would want a son to be. He's a man. It comes across in all of the things he does.''
Multiple teams are known to have had internal discussions regarding Brown but his injury history is a major obstacle. Prior to a torn ACL in the 2007 season opener, he had a torn Lisfranc ligament and a torn Achilles tendon, all lower body injuries that some believe have robbed him of what range he had. Brown was never a player that got by on tremendous athletic ability, rather one who was instinctive, smart and prepared, similar in that way to Harrison.
Brown was selected to one Pro Bowl after the 2005 season and was an All-Pro choice in 2001, his second season and the first year he was exposed to new Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, then the Bears' wide receivers coach. He is the Bears' franchise leader with seven career defensive touchdowns, a testament to his nose for the ball and playmaking ability.
The Bears are not just hoping to find a free safety this summer, they're going to need someone to step into a leadership role, especially in the secondary. They opened OTA's last month by switching Corey Graham from cornerback to free safety. Josh Bullocks and Craig Steltz could all be in the mix. While the Bears still might venture out to seek help at wide receiver, it appears safety will be handled in-house.
Certainly the Bears will have their eyes on Brown if he lands in Kansas City.