Trip to Super Bowl emotional for Kreutz
By Melissa Isaacson
By Melissa Isaacson
CHICAGO — So there he was, mashed left hand swelling up from something Olin Kreutz couldn't even remember, someone stepping on it or twisting it or one of any number of things that have happened to various body parts on a weekly basis for the last nine seasons, something he couldn't be bothered with.
There was Kreutz, a Saint Louis School alum, trying hard to keep his composure with a reporter who backed up from the postgame pack talking to Roberto Garza, stepped directly on Kreutz's bare foot, then still wouldn't get out of his personal space.
There was Kreutz, the Bear with the longest tenure along with long snapper Pat Mannelly, wasting no words when it came to Saints rookie Reggie Bush and his ill-advised point at Brian Urlacher and flip into the end zone in the third quarter.
"When I saw it," Kreutz said in that understated snarl of his, "I just kind of looked like, what an idiot, just a young idiot, just a guy who doesn't understand that you have to earn the right to do that. He hasn't done enough this year in the league to do anything close to that, pointing to a guy like Brian Urlacher. I mean, that's just ridiculous."
It was so Kreutz, the same go-to guy who stood there during the 4-12 and 6-10 and 5-11 seasons under Dick Jauron, after the 2001 first-round drubbing to the Eagles following that 13-3 year and during a 4-12 year under Jauron and a 5-11 campaign under Lovie Smith. The guy who told you when the Bears stunk, when he stunk.
Kreutz, the guy who even when he's being stoic is as open as his many wounds after games, accepted the congratulations of 1985 Bear Otis Wilson, then turned back to the columnist who asked him what he was trying to commit to memory after yesterday's victory over the Saints and his first trip to the Super Bowl was sewn up.
"You know," he said softly, "I was really trying my best not to cry. I'm not allowed. The guys were getting on me a little bit, but I held it together pretty well."
"He tried to hide it," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner, "but you could see it."
Fox caught Kreutz gazing up afterward, lost in the moment.
"I don't remember that moment," Kreutz said, "but I was just taking it all in. The snow coming down, you couldn't have written it better."
There were plenty of feel-good stories in the Bears' locker room. Respected veterans like Ruben Brown and Thomas Jones and Adewale Ogunleye making their first trips to the Super Bowl. Many others who surely deserve this. But across the room from Kreutz was Urlacher, one who has also worn the Bears uniform during seasons when there was no hope, not for that year or the next year.
"This overshadows everything," Urlacher said. "This is why we play the game, to get to the Super Bowl. And we want to win it."
Like Kreutz, Urlacher has grown impatient at times with the questions, even more intolerant of who he perceives are the doubters. He has clammed up at times over the years, answered succinctly, politically.
But he is also a Bear's Bear, like Kreutz. And so he can't help himself at times, like when he is asked about the Bush taunt.
What did Urlacher think about it? "I think we're going to the Super Bowl," he said with no hint of a grin. "I was trying to take him down from the backside. What did he do, point back? I'm sure he wished they would have won the game instead of pointing."
Urlacher wasn't necessarily the MVP in a game yesterday in which the Bears defense exhibited the type of dominance not seen since the early part of the season. But it is no coincidence that after Bush pointed at Urlacher, the defense stiffened behind him.
"Some people you just can't do that to because they're going to make you pay for it," Bears teammate Desmond Clark said. "Urlacher stepped up after that, and they didn't give up a point after that point."
Did they ever think they might never make it to a Super Bowl?
"I'm 29 years old," Kreutz said. "I haven't thought about that yet. I have a lot of time left."
"No doubt in any of our minds," Urlacher said.
But that doesn't mean it wasn't hard to grasp it yesterday, Urlacher standing there on Jan. 21, talking about a game two weeks from now, Kreutz watching his hand swell and knowing he wouldn't have the entire off-season to heal.
"This is more than I thought it would be," Kreutz said.
"It's what you work for, it's what you're playing every year for. Now I know why everybody wants to get there because it's such a great feeling.
"Anybody who has played in the NFL, even the rookies, it looked like they knew. This is special. This team, we thought we were special from the beginning. We have one more game to go, but hopefully we are proving that we are a special team."