He didn't want to do it in the offseason, hoping to grind through it this year. It's been bothering him since the start of camp and clearly got worse even when he stopped practicing.
Urlacher thinks that early practice might have made the knee worse, which if you think about it, is a pretty good indicator that he wouldn't have made it through the season.
He didn't want surgery if he could help it—he's in the final year of a contract and might have worried that it could have hampered his 2012 season. Yet now, that is exactly what will happen.
Knee surgeries like this are not uncommon, but can take a while to recover from. Yet Urlacher and the Bears continue to insist that he will be ready for Week 1.
They should be very careful to not rush Urlacher back too quickly.
Of course the defense will miss him—they won't be able to just replace him and his production.
So far they have shifted Nick Roach to middle linebacker with Geno Hayes playing strongside. We may see some of Dom DeCicco, the back-up middle linebacker, since Urlacher is completely out until at least Week 1.
The Bears should at least find out what they have in DeCicco if this case lingers.
None of them are like to replace his production though—or the threat he carries onto the field.
But again, the single biggest concern here is that the surgery doesn't clear up the problem, or maybe it does and then Urlacher comes back too soon and aggravates his injury.
The Bears can afford to be without Urlacher at the start of the schedule—with games against Indianapolis, Jacksonville and St Louis, they should be able to contain the offenses they face. The Week 2 game against the Packers and the Week 4 tilt against Dallas are more difficult without him, but not insurmountable.
If that's what it takes in order to have a healthy Urlacher for the rest of the season, then a team like the Bears (who have Super Bowl aspirations) has to do it.
If they rush him back—or allow themselves to be convinced that he's "good enough" before he truly is, they could lose him for a much longer length of time.
Going against the Packers and Cowboys may be hard during the first month of the season, but going against the Packers, the Texans, the 49ers and two times against the Lions without Urlacher would be worse.
Caution needs to be the byword of this injury. Make sure he is 100 percent or do without him during the early, manageable part of the season.
This is better than trying to finish the rest of the season without him.