Linebacker Brian Urlacher spent 13 seasons in Chicago, where he was an eight-time Pro Bowler. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
Chicago — The Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 successful season.
General manager Phil Emery said Wednesday the team couldn't agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise.
Urlacher e is now a free agent after missing the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury.
The eight-time Pro Bowler started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles. The ninth overall selection in the 2000 draft has 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles.
Owners pass helmet rule
NFL owners, in meetings in Phoenix, passed a safety rule barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.
Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed as the owners meetings concluded.
The tuck rule, one of the most criticized rules in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.
Reports: Reed to Texans
Free-agent safety Ed Reed is on the verge of becoming a Houston Texan, according to multiple reports.
CBSSports.com reported Wednesday night a deal was in place, and the NFL Network quoted Reed as saying he was headed to Houston "unless something changes."
Arians backs Stanton
New Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says his team isn't looking for a quarterback.
He says he believes he has one in Drew Stanton (Michigan State), the former Lions quarterback who was the backup to Andrew Luck at Indianapolis last season.
He says he has "all the confidence in the world" with Stanton as the starter. Arians saw Stanton up close as Indianapolis' interim coach last season.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan says Robert Griffin III is "ahead of schedule" in his return from knee surgery.
… The Broncos are set to talk with free agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham today.
… Former Lions defensive end Turk McBride and the Bears agreed to a one-year deal.