There is some concern among Chicago Bears media, fans and onlookers that Brian Urlacher’s four-day absence from active practice is a bad sign for the veteran linebacker and the team.
While the concern is in some ways valid—as it would be with any aging player—the sky isn’t falling just yet.
First of all, the simple fact is that the Bears might be keeping him out just to rest him. He has some knee pain, but they might have decided that they’d rather have him rested then repping.
It’s not like he lacks knowledge of the defense. He isn’t some raw rookie, converting positional player or new teammate.
The team knows what he can bring to the table. If he’s dealing with any pain (and by this time in camp, many players are—ask the Lions) why not sit him down? What is gained by having him play?
The preseason games are meaningless. Everyone knows this.
So why risk him coming back from a knee injury if he feels a bit off? Do you need to see what he is capable of?
No, you don’t. If you do, hit the coaches' tape from 2011.
Secondly, while missing Urlacher for any amount of time is rough—and plugging in anyone else isn’t the same thing—it’s not like they are bereft of linebacker talent.
Geno Hayes and Nick Roach are shades of what Urlacher is, but they are both solid players who can plug the line. Also, if need be in a pinch, Shea McClellin could shift back to linebacker, though he was an outside LB in college, not inside.
So worst-case scenario, yes, the defense takes a bit of a step back because you can’t replace Urlacher easily.
However, to think it’s about to fall off the map is silly. There is too much talent here at other spots.
The defensive line is still poised to be tremendously productive. Lance Briggs is still a beast. The secondary is improved.
It’s a well above-average defense with Urlacher—it’s very good even in his absence.
This is not to dismiss any absence (and again, all of this is pure speculation by the media since it’s preseason) would have on the defense this season. It isn’t as if they won’t have a few bumps. It will. It might even take a bigger step back from what I say.
It’s not going to automatically spin off and implode.
What it does do is thin the ranks a bit, and losing, say, Lance Briggs or Julius Peppers as well becomes a problem.
However, while Urlacher is an incredibly gifted defender, he isn’t the only thing this defense has going for it.
It makes things harder, yes.
The sky isn’t falling, though, because he is missing preseason.
And lest we forget, this is preseason, or as Allen Iverson said: "We talkin’ bout practice."
We can panic if he misses Week 1—and then, only a mild panic.