The Bears have been very quiet on the Brian Urlacher left knee front over the last two weeks, and I feared that they were covering up the possibility of Urlacher needing arthroscopic surgery (a knee scope), or even covering up the news that he'd already undergone arthroscopic surgery.
Right now, I wish the latter situation were true, because today, Urlacher indeed underwent arthroscopic surgery to relieve swelling on the knee. Had he gotten the scope a week or two ago (and perhaps the Bears weren't completely sure he'd need it at that time), he'd likely be in good shape to return for week one against the Colts on September 9th at Soldier Field.
But, the Bears are still confident that Urlacher will be able to return for the season-opener, just 26 days away. Here's what Phil Emery had to tell ESPN Radio 1000 today (quotes via Chicago Sun-Times):
“We decided it was best to be as conservative and careful as we could to give him the rest he needed. He had that rest. He felt better. He came back. He started practicing,” Emery told ESPN-1000. “He still didn’t feel completely comfortable with it. Consulting with Brian, talking to our team physicians and trainers, we decided to go ahead and move forward and have it scoped.And more on the situation, from the Chicago Tribune:
“Basically a cleanup procedure to try to relieve some of the swelling so that the soreness would go away and Brian would be ready for the home opener.”
Urlacher did some running with a brace on Monday morning under the careful watch of the team's training staff while a walk-through was being conducted. The Bears expected he would likely miss some time in training camp but didn't expect a need to shut him down.While the hope is obviously for Urlacher to be able to play in week one, the main priority is that he's able to go (and as healthy as he can be) for the Packers game at Lambeau Field in week two. Remember, that's a Thursday night game as well, so the Bears will only get three days of rest before that game, which is of course against the team they're looking to beat more than any other.
"I just think I did a lot of movements I hadn't done in a long time and being out there for 2 ½, three hours probably doesn't help, running around," Urlacher told Fox (on Monday). "But it's practice. You gotta do it. I think just the shock of being out there so long and doing so many movements like that was too much for my knee.
"It is hard but there is a fine line between pushing it and easing into it, which is what I need to do. I just gotta get back out there for Sept. 9. Even if I just practice the week before, I'll be in good enough shape to make it through those games. But I gotta be out there when the games count."
For now, Nick Roach will play middle linebacker, and Geno Hayes (a starter for the Buccaneers the last three years) will move in for Roach at the starting strongside linebacker position. Here's what Lance Briggs told ChicagoBears.Com about the two linebackers that will start alongside him in Urlacher's absence:
“Nick’s done well; as good as anyone could do right now with Brian being out,” Briggs said. “He’s played the position before when Brian’s gone down. He’s very comfortable in the position. He gets us all aligned and playing well, and he’s very stout and smart. He’s a guy who’s seasoned, so he knows where he needs to be.”
With Roach moving inside, veteran free-agent acquisition Geno Hayes has been working with the No. 1 defense at strongside linebacker. Hayes signed with the Bears this year after spending his first four NFL seasons working in a similar system with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Geno’s a playmaker,” Briggs said. “I can’t wait to see Geno on the field and what he brings to the table. He’s very instinctive. He’s a ballplayer, and that’s the reason why he’s running with the ones right now.”
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