LAKE FOREST, Ill.—Brian Urlacher spoke and this time it wasn’t about Gale Sayers.
The middle linebacker spoke about what matters – the present-day Bears – and his return after missing 15 ½ games last season after having to undergo surgery to repair a dislocated wrist.
The six-time Pro Bowl performer and former defensive player of the year turns 32 on Tuesday and the question is whether he can regain form this season or if he will be a shell of his former self as the Bears try to make a turnaround and reach the postseason. If you had any doubt whether or not there is a sense of urgency for the franchise, consider that the Bears two practices on Friday and Saturday, the first time Lovie Smith has ordered up doubles since his first season in 2004.
For starters, how’s the wrist?
“Great,” Urlacher said Sunday afternoon after the Bears wrapped up a three-day minicamp at Halas Hall. “Feels good, man. Feels really good. I did everything football-wise I was supposed to do.
“It sucks, man. I got a lot of perspective (sitting out injured). I don’t want to do it again. It’s very frustrating. I hadn’t missed a season in my life, high school, college, nothing even close to that. The closest I ever came was ’04, when I missed a few games with my hamstring but it was very frustrating. When you don’t have it, that’s when you appreciate it the most, when it’s taken from you, you miss it the most.”
Rod Marinelli will run the defense this season, the third coordinator in as many seasons for the Bears. But really, he’s just an extension of Smith. The biggest difference, the team hopes, will come from defensive end Julius Peppers, the $91.5 million free-agent prize. The Bears have been unable to get to the quarterback and that has hurt them up front and in the secondary.
“I think we’re better,” Urlacher said. “Any time you get a player like Julius Peppers, you’re going to be better right away. He’s awesome. The guy works, he works his butt off every day, doesn’t say much, but he works his tail off, and then we got (safety) Chris (Harris) back obviously, that’s a big addition for us. He knows the defense, he communicates well, everything.”
Urlacher is going to have to make a significant impact too for the defense to make a big jump. It was. He feels good. Is he the same player he was when he was 25? No. You can’t fight off your age. But the hope is that his body is fresh and that he will start the season energized.
“I had a year off so I feel pretty good,” he said. “I’m just excited I get to practice again.”
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