Listen up, it only matters if Brian Urlacher misses a real game.
What’s more, it doesn’t really matter if he misses the first real game.
But first, the Bears might want to practice explaining why they worked the draft and free-agent market as if unaware that their Pro Bowl middle linebacker was hurt and on the wrong side of 30.
Urlacher missed his fifth straight practice Monday. He won’t play in the Bears’ exhibition opener against Denver on Thursday. He was said to be healthy and ready when training camp started. But he apparently has problems with the sprained ligaments in his left knee that was injured in a meaningless game in Minnesota on Jan. 1.
No, wait, it wasn’t meaningless. Bears coach Lovie Smith said the win over the dogbreath Vikings made the Bears 1-0 in the 2012 season. No lie. That’s what Smith said. Remember?
So, given Smith’s nonsensical statements, it’s worth noting that some of his indirect answers to direct questions about Urlacher make this situation feel more suspicious. Smith is answering questions he doesn’t want to answer and giving answers that don’t alleviate much. Some of his answers, I believe, have been beamed back from the NASA Mars rover Curiosity.
Smith generally sounds like a lot of hot air. In this situation, it sounds as if the Bears are holding their breath. I mean, would you be surprised if Urlacher was a lot worse than the Bears are letting on?
Smith saying “Brian Urlacher missing a few days isn’t going to hurt an awful lot’’ sounds like code for “We hope Nick Roach can put that Northwestern education to use.’’
Roach has done this before and played well. But the Bears don’t win without Urlacher. They lose two of every three games they play without him, or something close to that. This season’s Bears offense looks more explosive than at any time during Urlacher’s career, which takes the edge off his potential absences.
But don’t kid yourself. This defense will need him.
So, back to the top: It only matters if Urlacher misses a real game, but the question will be whether he can make a second game. That seems to be the subtext here: The Bears have a lot of time to let Urlacher rest before the season opener, which remains a month away, but what about the second game?
And it’s not just any second game, either. It’s a second game just four days later and it’s in Green Bay.
If Smith’s suspicious and unsatisfying answers indicate Urlacher’s questionable readiness to play a full season, then the Bears ought to act like the Packers game is his season opener. Do the math: If Urlacher is spending five weeks like this trying to get ready for the first game, then it’s legitimate to believe he’d have trouble getting ready for the next game four days later.
Tell Urlacher to skip the opener against the Indianapolis roadkill and get ready for the more important game four days later in Green Bay. If you think I’m disrespecting an opponent, you’re right. I am. Tough noogies.
Look, if the Bears need Urlacher to eke out a win over a 2-14 team with a rookie quarterback starting on the road, then the Bears aren’t nearly as good as I thought they were. Phil Emery might as well fire Smith and get on with bringing in a coach of his choice that the McCaskeys denied him because of money and/or Virginia McCaskey’s fondness for Lovie.