Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice for the 1st time since July 31, looking to play in Sunday’s season opener.
Urlacher didn’t stop to chat to hacks, but Coach Lovie Smith asserted the 8-time Pro Bowl player looked good considering he had arthroscopic surgery to his left knee Aug. 14.
”He had a good 1st day back,” Coach Lovie Smith announced. ”He’s got to get in shape. I’m sure he’ll tell you that and a couple of other things like that. But we didn’t have any difficulty with him today. He’s right on schedule.”
Urlacher talked before about his status and said, ”I’m playing Sunday. That’s a done deal.”
But Urlacher said the knee will not be 100%. ”I will be as close to it as I can be,” he revealed. ”I have been doing some things. I’ve been in the pool. I have been running with our trainers and stuff on the side. But it’s hard to get in shape up in a week of practice. It’s not possible. But I’m going to get as near as I can to it.” Football lines
Chicago Bears players liked what they saw of Urlacher in practice.
”He’s back in the flow,” linebacker Nick Roach said. ”We’re still a long way away from Sunday, but just having him back is unquestionably positive.”
With Urlacher back, defensive players returned to their standard routine. Roach moved from the middle back to his regular starting spot on the strong side.
Beyond Urlacher, the Chicago Bears also had starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea back from an ankle injury and starting safety Chris Conte returning from a shoulder injury.
DT Amobi Okoye, who signed early Monday, worked, and defensive tackle Brian Price was cut when Okoye signed.
Okoye had 4 sacks for the Bears last year, but left in free agency for Tampa on an one year, $2 million agreement. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and reached an injury settlement when he was cut by the Bucs. The Bears gave him a physical and are convinced he will be able to help as a backup to Henry Melton.
”Amobi is one of our guys,” Smith said. ”There was disappointment when he signed with the Bucs. He is a young football player.
”Everybody was excited about getting him back. I know he’s been injured before down there, but he had a good day of practice today.”
Okoye said his knee has healed completely after he tried to come back too soon. He right immediately felt a part of the Bears’ defense.
”It fits like a glove,” he announced. ”Being here last year and knowing what I love to do, and what this defense asks of me to do, it’s perfect.”
The Chicago Bears had acquired Price from Tampa Bay in July for a 2013 draft pick. But he struggled coming off a leg injury and sustained a head injury in the last preseason game – the latest blow for a player who’s had a rough time.