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If Bears listen to their fans, Kreutz will be a happy man

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 1:33 a.m. HST, Jul 21, 2011

In these bottom-line days, how many people do you know with a strong public mandate behind them for the awarding of a new, multi-million dollar annual salary deal?

We bring this up because response to a Chicago Tribune poll this week has been running about 70 percent in favor of the Bears anteing up what it takes to keep their center, Olin Kreutz.

“Is 34-year-old Olin Kreutz worth the money the Bears would have to put up to keep him?” the Trib asked.

And what it might involve as soon as today, when this ridiculous four month-old lockout could end, may well be in the $5 million to $6 million annual ballpark.

A nice place to be, indeed, if you are the Saint Louis School graduate.

Those are approval numbers President Obama would scale the Sears Tower for and his salary figures to end up being less than 10 percent of what Kreutz will likely ending up getting.

Kreutz’s unsolicited support is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which being that in some cities it would be hard to find more than 3,000 respondents who can even identify their center. That’s a position where the anonymity is usually only broken when something goes wrong.

But in the Windy City, where they are extremely demanding of their pro athletes, Kreutz has come to occupy an iconic standing on the field as well as in the public perception. He is a throwback to the past in ways that make even Mike Ditka proud and keep quarterback Jay Cutler out of intensive care.

That pride is rooted in Kreutz’s ironman ethic, something that has driven him through 134 consecutive starts. It would be a 10-year unbroken string except for a 2002 appendectomy that put him on the sideline. Briefly.

Still, Kreutz has started 183 overall games, one short of Walter Payton’s club record.

But it isn’t records or nostalgia that figure to bring him back. If Kreutz is applauded for performance and celebrated for his perseverance and durability, he is prized for his remarkable loyalty. Several times in a 13-year career he could have gone to warmer climates and greener postseason pastures when free agency occurred. And, yet, he has remained in Chicago, sometimes leaving considerably more than lunch money on the counter to do it.

In the shortened preseason forced by the length of the lockout, Kreutz has been handed his best negotiating position ever as the Bears are backed into a three-day negotiating window. Nothing like having a young offensive line in need of such a steadying presence at center and a shortened preseason camp after an NFC championship game season to build leverage.

Yet, from what Kreutz has told the Star-Advertiser (“I think anybody who knows me knows I’ve always chosen to stay here as long as everything was fair and even”) and others and the stance of his agent, the leverage has barely been applied.

Of course, the public has been saying loud and clear what Kreutz deigns not to articulate.

But you can’t help wonder how many of those responses in favor of doing what it takes to keep Kreutz have come from Cutler and his next of kin.

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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