Finally healthy after two years of neck and back problems, Brian Urlacher gave everyone a blast from the past during the regular-season opener, lowering his shoulder and plowing over Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
His season was off to a good start. And then, it was over.
The Chicago Bears' star linebacker underwent surgery Monday to repair a dislocated right wrist and will not be back this season -- a major blow for a team with high expectations.
Team spokesman Jim Christman confirmed the bad news for the Bears. There was no immediate word from Urlacher other than a text message to the Chicago Tribune that said simply: "season is over."
Urlacher, a 10-year veteran, apparently was injured in the first quarter of Sunday night's 21-15 loss at Green Bay making a tackle on Packers running back Ryan Grant. He played in the second quarter, but left on the Packers' first drive of the second half.
While the arrival of Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler sent expectations in Chicago soaring, the Bears were also counting on a healthy Urlacher to help them get back to the playoffs after missing the past two postseasons.
The six-time Pro Bowler, now 31, appeared to be in better shape after being limited by a bad back and neck the past two years, and he was off to a good start on Sunday.
He looked like his old self when he flattened Rodgers just as the quarterback released a pass downfield that a leaping Donald Driver juggled and dropped.
Later in the quarter, Urlacher rolled over Grant while making one of his three tackles and briefly shook his wrist before walking away with what looked like nothing more than a minor injury.
Now the Bears are without the longtime face of the franchise -- Urlacher had started 49 consecutive games and has missed a total of seven games, all in 2004 (in those games, the Bears were 0-7) -- and a stalwart run-stuffer in a division with Grant and Vikings star Adrian Peterson.
With Urlacher out, Hunter Hillenmeyer could see more time after replacing him on Sunday.
The Bears have been in contact with free-agent linebacker Derrick Brooks, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, to fill the void left by Urlacher's injury, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. It's possible the Bears could sign the 36-year-old Brooks as early as Monday.
Bears coach Lovie Smith was a member of Tampa Bay's coaching staff during Brooks' days with the Buccaneers.
Chicago could also be short-handed in other areas, too.
Tight end Desmond Clark took a hard hit after making a catch in the third quarter and left the game with a back injury. Left guard Frank Omiyale also went down for several minutes moments later after spraining his ankle and limping off the field.
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa also left in the first half with a knee injury, but Urlacher's injury creates a big hole on a defense that was trying to regain its dominant form after two mediocre seasons.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!