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NFL commentary: Old 55 says 'D' still the difference

Long before the double-nickel belonged to
Lance Briggs, another Bears Pro Bowl linebacker wore the number 55, “Mama’s Boy” Otis Wilson. 

Unlike Briggs, Wilson boasts a Super Bowl title on his resume, and he believes the current 55 and his defensive teammates are the key to the Bears winning another one.

The old 55 has been catching up with these new Bears quite a bit lately, watching their Fan Night practice Saturday at Soldier Field and then joining them at their next practice back in Bourbonnais.

He told me he’s heard a lot of good things about new coach Marc Trestman from Hall of Famer Steve Young, among others, as an excellent offensive-minded coach but that he’s always believed “offenses win games, but defenses win championships.”

Wilson knows how important the offense has become around the league.

“Lovie [Smith] had a real hold on these guys and it was almost like a father-son relationship,” he said. “Now a lot of guys are older, and change is hard, so I’m just hoping they put some good offense out there [to help the defense].”

Everyone knows how critical Jay Cutler will be to the success of this team. But looking at this Bears defense, Wilson believes its new quarterback, Lance Briggs, and how he replaces Brian Urlacher could be the biggest key to the Bears season.

“It’s going to be very hard for Lance, because you have to get a lot more into the gameplan, you have to really understand the schemes of what you’re running and what the offense is running [against you],” Wilson said. “I was fortunate enough that I had a coach on the field, [Mike] Singletary and he was doing that and he took a lot of the pressure off of people. Now Briggs has to become a thinker as opposed to a player, and that can hurt you a little bit. But I think they’ll simplify the plan, try and let him attack people, and he should be fine.”

As for the end of the Urlacher era, Wilson believes it’s all about the money. 

“This is a funny business where you always want to go out on your own terms, but 90 percent of the time, it doesn’t happen because of the money,” Wilson said. “It’s hard to replace Brian, not just his talent, but the aura of him, having his presence on the field. I’m waiting to see how this defense reacts.”

After eight seasons with the Bears, Wilson missed the 1988 season because of injury and then tried to play with the Raiders in ‘89. He played in one game before he was forced to retire. He was younger than Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman are now when he was forced to hang up his pads. Does he worry about what Father Time might do to this defense?

“Oh, there’s no question about it, it can go quickly, especially in this physical game. Peppers, Tillman and Lance are the heart and soul of this team and with the new regime, it’s tough,” Wilson said. “Physically, now you want your body to act like a 25-year-old, and we know that’s not going to happen.”

Still, Wilson is really excited about the season and the new regime. While there is plenty to worry about, he likes what he sees in new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker trying to do with “his guys” and he believes Trestman can give the defense the support it needs to win another title.

After all he says “One Championship every 25 or 30 years shouldn’t be enough, it isn’t that hard to do. It’s time we win another one.”

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