Bears chairman George McCaskey has stated that Mike Ditka's No. 89 will be last number retired by the organization, saying in a statement "we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89."
And that is just fine with the legendary Dan Hampton, who wore No. 99 during his Hall of Fame career with the Bears. It's been argued for years that his number should be retired as well.
"I understand. It's simple math," Hampton told the Sun-Times on Friday. "This is a franchise with so many great players. If everybody's number got retired, it would diminish the honor in a way. I understand. The kind of the trap of it all is that if you played for the Bears that you're one of many. If you played in Tampa, what is there a handful of guys?
"It's kind of a numbers game and I understand that. I know that a number of players probably understand, and I'm talking about [Mike] Singletary, Richard Dent and other great players where probably some other place would have warranted it, but for team like Chicago, it's a numbers game. You have to understand that."
Hampton said a form of recognition similar to the Seattle Seahawks' Ring of Honor would be great to see, but "how crowded would that become."
"It's prohibitive in the sense that there's just so many [good players]," Hampton said. "That's the glory of actually playing for this franchise. I mean it's not Seattle, where you have got one or two guys that have actually accomplished something."
Hampton was happy to see that Ditka, who coached him for most of his career, was honored by the Bears. The team announced early Friday that Ditka's No. 89 would be retired during halftime of the Bears' "Monday Night Football" game on Dec. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be the 14th number the Bears have retired, which is the most in the league.
"It's a great honor," Hampton said. "He fits right in with [Gale] Sayers, [Dick] Butkus and the legendary Bears of all time. Beyond his playing days obviously, he was a transitional coach in the sense that he was a nationally known figure, known world-wide. You show somebody a picture in Pakistan or someplace in Africa of all the NFL head coaches today and pictures of Ditka, I bet you 90 percent would know how who Ditka is and probably very few of the coaches today would be identified. He was an iconic figure not only as a player, but as a coach. What he meant to this franchise, it's justified the retirement of his number."