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Brian Urlacher expects the Bears will be contenders

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Updated: August 27, 2012 11:15AM

BOURBONNAIS — Talk about a new contract for
linebacker Brian Urlacher is a dead topic. It was all but given the last rites by
general manager Phil Emery on Tuesday, and it likely won’t be resurrected until after the 2012 season.

Urlacher, who has been the poster boy for all things Bears for the last 13 years, seems content with that idea and is focused on the here and now.

What that means for Urlacher, 34, is the days of coming to training camp and pretending the Bears looked like a contender on paper are over. As far as he’s concerned, with the talent that has been assembled for 2012, he can speak it and believe it.

‘‘Yeah, I think we have the talent now to reach our expectations,’’ he said.

Now? Somewhere, former GM Jerry Angelo is cringing.

‘‘We always say it because it’s the right thing to say, but I really think we can do it this year,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘I mean, we’re stacked at every position. Any time you add [receiver] Brandon Marshall, [running back] Michael Bush, our defense is healthy again — which is a big deal for us — and then [quarterback] Jay [Cutler] being back healthy is a big deal, too.’’

The injured left knee Urlacher suffered in the season finale on New Year’s Day against the Minnesota Vikings is fully recovered, and no limitations were placed on him a day before practices begin.

‘‘Yeah, as far as I know [I’m practicing], yeah,’’ he said. ‘‘It feels good. Every practice that they let me go, I’ll be going. [Coach] Lovie [Smith] gives us days off sometimes when we don’t expect them, so we’ll see how that goes.’’

Before the injury at the end of last season, Urlacher was doing what he does. That meant 135 tackles, three interceptions and 10 tackles for loss, plus a lot of fans wearing his No. 54 jersey in the stands.

That’s why the idea the Bears would be willing to move on without him after this season is laughable. Especially if he continues to patrol the middle of the field at such a high level.

While Urlacher has said there were no talks about a contract extension during the offseason, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It likely will be a hurdle crossed next offseason.

‘‘I’m content to focus on the team’s movement toward its goals,’’ Emery said of the Urlacher contract talk. ‘‘Each and every contract situation is unique. What we do as a personnel department, along with our coaches, is keep our eyes on the big picture. And our big picture is to get on the field and earn our place in the NFL every day.’’

Urlacher has more than earned that place, as well as his place in Bears lore.

‘‘I’ve had good conversations with Brian,’’ Emery said. ‘‘That’s a fine human being. He’s obviously, if not our team leader, one of our top team leaders. Brian Urlacher’s been a great Bear and a great NFL football player. Yes, I’ve talked to him. And I’m excited about Brian this season.’’

Urlacher is excited, too. Excited about being part of a team that looks balanced enough to hurt the opposition on both sides of the ball.

What he won’t get caught up in, though, is that there is a sense of urgency for the Bears to win it all this season.

‘‘There is a sense of urgency every year,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a new team every single year. There are guys gone. Guys get cut that you don’t expect to get cut, or traded, so every year there is a sense of urgency. No different than any other year.’’

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