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Bears’ Urlacher to miss preseason opener

By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune –

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Brian Urlacher will miss Thursday night’s exhibition opener against the Broncos, and it remains unclear how long a sore left knee will keep the Bears linebacker sidelined.

Urlacher missed his fourth consecutive practice Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University. Fellow linebacker Lance Briggs is not too concerned — at least not yet.

“Brian is a tough-minded, tough-hearted person, and he knows what he needs to do to get on that football field,” Briggs said Sunday. “Our trainers know what they need to do to get him back on the field. For now, he’ll rest. When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

Urlacher suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament and partially sprained posterior collateral ligament in a Jan. 1 season-ending victory over the Vikings. He suffered the injury following an inadvertent collision with teammate Major Wright.

Urlacher was told he would have to endure 10 weeks of rehab to stabilize the knee. He remained sidelined during the offseason and first returned to practice at the start of training camp July 26.

Urlacher seemed to move around uninhibited the first few days of camp despite wearing a cumbersome brace to protect the knee. The eight-time Pro Bowl player was scheduled to be limited this preseason whether he felt soreness in the knee or not.

A reporter asked coach Lovie Smith about the possibility of Urlacher undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up the knee.

“We’re on top of his knee,” Smith responded. “When he’s ready to go, he’ll be back out there. That’s about all we’ll talk about.”

Urlacher has no intention of getting his knee scoped.

Nick Roach continued to work with the first team at middle linebacker in place of Urlacher, while newcomer Geno Hayes moved over to Roach’s first-team spot at strong-side linebacker. Roach started three games at middle linebacker in 2009, when Urlacher suffered a dislocated wrist, ending his season.

Briggs said Roach doesn’t have a booming voice like Urlacher’s in terms of relaying the defensive plays. But both Briggs and Urlacher expressed confidence in Roach regardless of his vocal skills.

“He’s done a good job,” Urlacher said of Roach. “Nick knows the defense really well. He’s played all three positions.”

With Urlacher set to miss Thursday’s game and highly unlikely to see much action in the final exhibition game versus the Browns (Aug. 30), the Bears might be tempted to keep him out of all four exhibition games. The third game of the preseason — Aug. 24 at the Giants — is the most meaningful in terms of the starters getting extensive work.

Urlacher reported to camp at a slender 258 pounds, so he is in good physical shape. It’s too early to say if his time off in the preseason will affect his conditioning during the season.

“The whole sentiment around the team is that … we need him there when the games count,” Briggs said. “I’m all about the rest.

“Preseason games don’t mean anything. … When you’ve done the things that Brian’s done and played the way that he’s played, you know he’s going to be ready.”

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