Wed, 15 Jul 2020

Chalk Talk: Bears' top three linebacking corps

Chicago Bears
30 May 2020, 16:37 GMT+10

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

In your opinion, who were the top three linebacker corps ever to play for the Bears?

Joe R.

Yorktown, New York

The Bears have a chance to have one of the NFL's best linebacking corps this season with outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn and inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. But to answer your question, it's only fair to compare apples and apples, and because the Bears didn't operate a 3-4 defense until John Fox became head coach in 2015, I'm only going to include the team's linebacking corps in 4-3 defenses.

With that being said, your question is an interesting one because the Bears have four Hall of Fame middle linebackers in Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher, plus two others in Joe Fortunato and Lance Briggs who I believe also deserve Hall of Fame consideration. The Bears have had eight linebackers earn first-team All-Pro honors: the six mentioned in this paragraph, plus Wilber Marshall and Mack. The Bears have had two linebackers named first-team All-Pro in the same season four times: George and Fortunato in 1963, Butkus and Fortunato in 1965, Singletary and Marshall in 1986 and Urlacher and Briggs in 2005.

In terms of my rankings, my No. 1 trio of Bears linebackers is Singletary, Marshall and Otis Wilson, who spent four seasons together from 1984-87. All three played in Pro Bowls and were part of some of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. Wilson was never named first-team All-Pro, but he was an impact player who recorded 31.5 sacks in the four seasons he played alongside Singletary and Marshall. In 1985, Wilson registered 104 tackles, 8.0 sacks and two interceptions for the Super Bowl champions.

My No. 2 trio is Urlacher, Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer, who had sustained success while starting together for six seasons from 2004-09. My No. 3 group is George, Fortunato and Larry Morris, who also teamed as a unit for six seasons from 1959-64-and helped the Bears win the NFL Championship in 1963.

Who was the last Bears tight end to have over 1,000 yards receiving in a season?

David M.

Chicago

The only Bears tight end to accomplish that feat has been Mike Ditka, who caught 56 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie in 1961. Ditka was named NFL offensive rookie of the year, selected first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl. It's one of 16 1,000-yard seasons by a Bears receiver. The second most prolific year by a Bears tight end was delivered by Martellus Bennett, who caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns in 2014.

I noticed Matt Forte in an episode of "Chicago Fire" about six months ago. Which other Bears players have appeared in TV shows?

George H.

Northern California

Yes, running back Matt Forte appeared in a 2012 episode of "Chicago Fire." Other Bears who have been on a TV show include Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher ("Entourage"); defensive tackles William "Refrigerator" Perry ("The A-Team"), Tommie Harris ("Criminal Minds") and Anthony Adams ("Ballers"); and defensive lineman Israel Idonije ("Chicago Fire"). And who could forget quarterback Erik Kramer, receiver Curtis Conway and running back Raymont Harris guest-starring on a "Married ... With Children" episode in which Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) sells his soul so that he can play for the Bears.

Other former Bears have appeared on multiple TV shows. They include Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus ("My Two Dads", "Matlock", "Night Court", "Murder, She Wrote", "The Love Boat", "Vega$"), Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka ("Cheers", "L.A. Law"), running back Thomas Jones ("Hawaii Five-0", "Shameless"), receiver Willie Gault ("In the Heat of the Night", "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper", "The Pretender", "Still Standing", "The West Wing", "Baywatch") and tight end Tim Wrightman ("Baywatch", "Mad About You", "Silk Stalkings", "Grace Under Fire", "Get Smart", "Walker, Texas Ranger").

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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