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Frustrated Brian Urlacher remains optimistic he’ll play in opener

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says his injured left knee is “not going feel comfortable all seaslong” but he aims return

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says his injured left knee is “not going to feel comfortable all season long,” but he aims to return Sept. 9. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: September 18, 2012 6:29AM

cher on Thursday repeatedly pushed his and the Bears’ stated goal that he would be ready to play in the 2012 season opener.

But he also admitted frustration with a knee he initially injured in the 2011 season finale and cast a hint of doubt that he’ll be healthy for the game Sept. 9 against the
Indianapolis Colts.

‘‘It’s taken longer than I wanted,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘I felt really good at the beginning of training camp, then I think I aggravated it a little bit [by] practicing those first few days, and it kind of flared up on me and swelled up. And [there is] some pain in there.

‘‘So it is frustrating because after seven months you’d think you’d be healthy again. But I should be good to go now — hopefully.’’

There has been plenty of mystery about Urlacher’s knee.

After injuring the posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee Jan. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings, Urlacher rested his knee and skipped all offseason workouts, rejoining full
activity at the start of camp. But he hasn’t practiced since July 31, and he was excused for personal reasons for about a week.

CSN Chicago, citing two sources, reported Thursday that Urlacher had a ‘‘non-invasive procedure’’ performed after the 2011 regular season. In addition, citing one source, CSN Chicago reported that Urlacher had a second procedure in the spring.

But a league source told the Sun-Times the report isn’t accurate, and Urlacher said Thursday that the procedure Tuesday was a first.

‘‘First time I’ve had something done on my knee, so it’s different,’’ he said. ‘‘But if I have to have something done, that’s the thing to be done.’’

Asked several times about his return, Urla-
cher became annoyed and said: “Sept. 9. Ask me another question, I’ll tell you Sept. 9. That’s my goal, and that’s what we’re shooting for. The whole time, that’s been our goal.’’

Asked if there were any issues, Urlacher said: ‘‘I don’t think there will be any issues. Unless there are. Then there will be. But I don’t think there will be.’’

Dr. Ralph Gambardella told the Sun-Times on Tuesday the Bears’ timetable for Urlacher’s return
after a knee scope is reasonable.

‘‘It’s certainly possible that you may see him back in two to three weeks,’’ said Gambardella, an
orthopedic surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe
Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, where he’s a consultant with the Los Angeles Dodgers and USC. ‘‘But it might take longer because you’ll have the same issue if he goes back and it swells again. Then the surgery didn’t work.’’

Bears linebacker Nick Roach, who is filling in at middle linebacker for Urlacher, had a scope during the 2010 preseason and returned for the opener, which was about 2½ weeks after the scope. But Urlacher wasn’t putting too much stock in Roach’s experience or anyone else’s.

‘‘Nick was quick,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘I just listen to the doctors. You see guys get scoped all the time on TV at the bottom of the screen. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, so I wasn’t that worried about it.’’

Urlacher said he isn’t sure if his knees will bother him throughout the season.

‘‘We’ll have to see. There could be something, there might not be any,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m sure it’s not going to feel comfortable all season long. I don’t think after the first game anyone is healthy.”

In the meantime, while teammates have applauded the intelligence and experience of Roach, they also acknowledge what they miss without Urlacher on the field.

‘‘We’ll miss that leadership in
the middle of the field and Brian’s presence,’’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘‘But Nick is doing a real good job, and we can’t miss a beat.”

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