There's no other words available to process the news that former All-Pro safety Dave Duerson, one of the younger mainstays of the 1985 Bears, was found dead at age 50 in his Miami apartment Thursday night.
The only rationalization for the bulletin was this was somehow the end result of downward spiral in Duerson's life -- one you could have never forecast getting to know the guy amid the Super Bowl-bound circus that was the '85 Bears.
Duerson was the Bear from that team I got to know best. Forging relationships with big-name Bears was a lot easier a generation ago, when the Pete Rozelle influence of accessibility permeated the NFL, and team handlers did not carefully guard their charges and choreograph almost all their movements. The Bears had a platoon of larger-than-life characters in '85, but third-year pro Duerson was well-grounded. He was articulate and glib; you could call him at home and he apparently took his Notre Dame education seriously. Fellow safety Shaun Gayle was similarly approachable. It's both amazing and sad how both endured tragedy later in life, with Gayle's fiancee allegedly being murdered by a jealous romantic rival.
Being able to talk football and life with a good guy like Duerson humanized the Bears as everyone wanted a piece of them, and they delivered, from the "Super Bowl Shuffle" to the 46-10 wipeout of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. In subsequent years, you were hardly surprised when Duerson became an NFL labor activist, then a successful businessman running a Kenosha-based sausage company while remaining active in Notre Dame affairs.
More recently, though, you cringed when you heard how Duerson's offshoot food business failed and his Highland Park home went into foreclosure. You were nearly made sick when he pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge involving wife Alicia, who seemed a sweet person and was faithfully at his side through the Bears' whirlwind seasons. Notre Dame distanced themselves from Duerson in this period.
After all of that, he had to move to one end of the country, in Miami, away from the city in which he had gained so much respect.
For different reasons, you figured Duerson and Walter Payton would be long-lived veterans of the '85 Bears. One had his head on ramrod straight and the other took such religiously good care of his body. Both died before they navigated much middle-age life. They're the first two players from Chicago's most legendary team to pass away.
That's an inevitability for every member of that club, but it's still incomprehensible when the news breaks. But maybe it's also a dual reminder that 1985 was a long time ago, and never to let things get away from you in a still-too-short lifespan.