The Bears have their first preseason game on Thursday night, and they'll be playing it without their defensive leader on the field (not that anybody important is going to play much in the initial preseason game anyway).

The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure reports that Brian Urlacher will sit out the exhibition opener vs. the Broncos, due to a sore left knee. It's the same knee that Urlacher injured in the 2011 season finale vs. the Minnesota Vikings (it's even more frustrating when you consider that there was no reason for him to be on the field in that meaningless game).

Urlacher's missed four consecutive practice, and there's no answer as to when he'll return.

Here's more, from McClure:

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 Bowler 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.

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.
The good news is that the knee doesn't appear to be anything to be too concerned about yet, and I'd have to think that if it we were talking about a regular season game, Urlacher would be playing.

And really, there's no good reason for Urlacher to even play in the preseason games anyway. It's not like the 34-year-old has anything to prove, and we know that he knows the Bears' defense as well as anybody. Getting his knee as healthy as possible before the week one game is significantly more important than getting him any preseason game playing time, or even practicing.

As Lance Briggs told McClure, "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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