Olin Kreutz thirteen year career in Chicago ended over a 1 year contract offer and a $500,000 difference of opinion.
Bears GM Jerry Angelo confirmed the numbers, saying they upped their offer, but Kreutz was firm. “We negotiated in good faith, we wanted Olin back, they saw it differently, I have to respect that.”
"Everyone knows what Olin Kreutz has done for us in the past and that’s quite a bit", head coach Lovie Smith said in announcing the departure of the team's captain and unequivocal leader, "but this is a new year and we’re going in this direction and we feel good about it."
In the frenzy of free agency that started Friday, the Bears signed 48 players in a 4 day span, "we had competition for everybody... there were no lay-ups", Angelo said.
Every minute without a deal the price went up for Kreutz's replacements. The team set a Saturday night deadline for Kreutz to accept the offer, he declined. “They didn’t hire me to be loved, they hired me to make decisions based on what is the best for the team" explained Angelo," that’s what its about people, c’mon this isn’t a wake, we’re sad, nobody died we wish him the best.” Still the departure of such a mainstay and much decorated Bear is big news.
Olin Kreutz came to the Bears as a 3rd round draft pick by Dave Wannstedt in 1998 and went on to start 183 games… 2nd only to Walter Payton in a Bears uniform. "It’s hard to put into words" guard Roberto Garza said, struggling to put words to the feelings he has for Kreutz. "He stands for what a Chicago Bear is. Tough, hardnosed fb player, he made his teammates better...he stands for what a Chicago bear should be & will always be.”
His speed, instincts & football smarts was second only to his leadership in the locker room. Bears teammates say he set the example of how to be a professional.
“He was easy to follow, he was always out front" Guard Frank Omiyale said, "always the one in the weight room, so if you had any question what you needed to do to get ready all you had to do was check out, see where he was at.”
Fourth year lineman, Chris Williams agreed. "Olin is irreplaceable at his position, as a leader on this team. The guy holds everyone accountable, he’s honestly irreplaceable, I just can’t imagine going without him.”
As the Bears hope new leaders emerge, respect was the resounding theme even from those who helped show Kreutz the door., "He embodies what a football player is" Angelo agreed, "very very sad, very disappointed."
Added Lovie Smith who emphasized although he was in Kreutz's corner to return, it was a team decision, made by everyone. "Everyone knows what Olin Kreutz has done for us in the past and that’s quite a bit, but this is a new year and we’re going in this direction and we feel good about it."