LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 27: Head coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears walks on the field. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
No longer will a Bear wear No. 89.
The Chicago Bears announced they will retire Mike Ditka's number during the 2013 season. The man who played for the Bears' 1963 championship team and coached the 1985 squad to a Super Bowl win will be honored at the Dec. 9 Chicago game against Dallas, another team Ditka played for.
Ditka was drafted by George Halas in 1961, and he played for six years in Chicago. He had 316 catches for 4,503 yards and played the position with the same hard-nosed style he brought to coaching. It was Halas who hired Ditka to coach in 1982, and Ditka's run in Chicago was as successful as it was memorable. He won the Super Bowl with the 1985 team and won six NFC Central championships.
“He revolutionized the tight end position as a player and grabbed an entire franchise by the throat as a head coach and willed it to victory in the Super Bowl," George McCaskey said in a statement. "We have more retired numbers than any other team in the NFL. After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89.”
Walter Payton, one of Ditka's players, has one of those retired numbers. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers have two of the other numbers, and they both played with Ditka late in his stint in Chicago.
The timing of this announcement is interesting as it comes just days after longtime Bears star Brian Urlacher retired. McCaskey made it clear the Bears won't retire any more numbers after this one, so no one should get their hopes up about No. 54.
Ditka's number will be the 14th retired number. With 53 players on an active roster, eight practice squad players and tight restrictions on which positions can wear certain numbers, they don't have room to retire many more.
So enjoy the ceremony for Da Coach. It will be a last-of-its-kind honor for a one-of-a-kind man.