The bad news for Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is that he has resigned himself to his surgically repaired left knee never again being completely healthy. The good news — for the Bears’ defense, if not for Urlacher’s long-term health — is that Urlacher says he can and will play through it.
Urlacher told the Chicago FOX affiliate that his knee “just isn’t the same anymore. It’s never going to be the same.”
At the same time, Urlacher said, there’s no doubt in his mind that he can be on the field and play effectively when the Bears open the regular season on Sunday against the Colts.
“I’m playing Sunday,” he said, via the Chicago Tribune. “That’s a done deal. I think Lovie said it a month ago, Sept. 9.”
Urlacher injured his knee in the final game of last season and has spent the entire offseason trying to get better, with multiple surgeries, experimental treatments, rest and rehabilitation. Urlacher said he feels better now than he did when he experienced a setback early in training camp.
“The knee has been an issue, obviously, since last season,” Urlacher said. “Felt good going into training camp. I was excited about it. Then, I kind of aggravated my knee during training camp. Then I had surgery, a little minor surgery, and it feels good again now. That’s all that matters, I feel good going into the season. It feels much better now. I have been running around quite a bit, not with the team in practice, I have been taking it really slow like Coach [Lovie] Smith said we would. Everything they are going to let me do, I’ll do. There is going to be some restrictions on what I can do because they don’t want to overwork me too early. It’s a long season. There will be some restrictions but there won’t be restrictions in the game on Sunday.”
Still, Urlacher acknowledged that “there is no way” to be in football shape when a player is as limited during training camp and the preseason as he has been. And he realizes there’s a chance that his knee will slow him down to such an extent that he’d be a liability in the Bears’ defense.
“If I can’t run, I’m hurting the team if I am out there not being able to do what I am normally able to do,” Urlacher said. “I wouldn’t do that, plus I am hurting myself. If it hurts, I won’t be out there. But there is no pain right now.”
The big question is whether Urlacher can make it through 16 games — or even one game — without the pain returning.