When Mike Brown first joined the Bears after being drafted in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft -- the same year the team took Brian Urlacher in the first round -- he immediately became a fan favorite. He was another safety in a long line of hard-hitting safeties in recent Bears history, following Doug Plank, Gary Fencik, and Mark Carrier. Then there were the two consecutive games in 2001 against the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns in which Brown intercepted a pass in overtime and scored the game-winning touchdown.
For a time you could have argued that Brown was more popular than the man taken before him by the team in the draft, the face of the franchise Brian Urlacher. In recent seasons, however, Mike has spent a lot more time in street clothes on the sidelines. Now, after nearly finishing an entire season sans injury, Brown has been placed on injured reserve by the Bears, ending his season. It's the fourth time in five years that Brown has been placed on IR, and each time has been due to a leg injury.
A torn achilles tendon here, a torn Lisfranc ligament there, and a blown ACL have all ended the season for Brown before, and this time a calf injury that Mike aggravated during the Packers game on Monday night is the culprit. Of course, this injury will have a rather large impact on the Bears for the rest of the season. While their run defense has been less than stellar at times, it's a lot better when Brown is sticking his nose in the box and stuffing ball carriers. If the Bears can somehow sneak into the playoffs, the odds of them getting out of the first round are a lot worse with Brown on the sidelines. Craig Steltz could end up having a nice career in the NFL, but as anyone who saw him get run over by the Packers Ryan Grant last Monday knows, he's not quite ready for primetime just yet.
As for the bigger picture, odds are that this calf injury won't just end Brown's season with the Bears, but his career here as well. Mike will be a free agent after the year is over, and the Bears aren't likely to bring him back considering his injury risk. They'll probably figure they're better off moving Kevin Payne back to strong safety, and moving either Danieal Manning or Steltz to free safety next season.