The news that Mike Ditka’s jersey is going to be retired is not recent news. The news that it will be the last, and this nugget from Josh Katzowitz are interesting though:
As the Chicago Sun-Times points out, though, that means former Bears stars like defensive lineman Dan Hampton (inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002), linebacker Mike Singletary (inducted into the HOF in 1998), defensive end Richard Dent (inducted in 2011) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (probable future Hall of Famer) won’t be honored in the same way.
Until I saw James Anderson in person on opening day against the Bengals I would have assumed for sure that Mike Singletary had his number retired. It turns out that not only was his number not retired, but not a single guy from the ’85 Bears defense has their number retired. The Bears have 13 retired numbers, the most in the NFL and only 2 behind the New York Yankees. There are 101 possible numbers1, and on a baseball team, only 45 or so are ever needed at a given time (assuming roster expansion and coaches), so there is a pretty large buffer most of the time. In football, there are 53 active players, plus injured and practice squad guys, taking the total to around 60.
The real issue with retiring numbers in the NFL is that positions have number restrictions that prevent certain numbers being used by certain guys. If too many numbers in a position group get retired, teams won’t have enough numbers. But you would think the Bears would do something, even if it’s a “soft retiring” of numbers so that more of their great players can be rewarded. The only guy from the ’85 Bears who jersey is retired at all is Walter Payton, which of course is more than deserving. But Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent all went into the Hall of Fame, and that should count for something. It would seem to reason that the Bears could find a way to include these four guys, and future Hall of Famers as well2.
It just seems a great injustice that not a single guy from that team, which featured three Hall of Famers, doesn’t feature a retired number.