Brian Urlacher’s return pumps up Bears
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com September 15, 2011 10:48PM
Updated: November 10, 2011 11:10AM
Even when Brian Urlacher left the Bears to grieve with his family after the sudden death of his mother, Lavoyda Lenard, it was expected that he would play against the Saints. But teammates were surprised to see him back so quickly Thursday.
‘‘Brian’s a warrior,’’ defensive tackle Henry Melton said. ‘‘I don’t even know how I would handle that kind of loss. I reach out to him. It’s a tough situation. He’s amazing to be back [after two days].’’
After leaving town Tuesday and missing practice Wednesday, Urlacher returned to Halas Hall and participated fully in practice.
‘‘It was good to get him back today,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘Sometimes when you’re going through tough times like he is right now, you want to get back with your support group, which is here with his teammates.
‘‘It was good to . . . see his face and show some support that way. Football is very important to him. I know he’s excited about playing Sunday.’’
A private service for Lenard, who was 51, will be held Saturday. The Bears will be represented by Smith, chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips, general manager Jerry Angelo, linebackers coach Bob Babich and teammate Lance Briggs.
Briggs, Urlacher’s closest friend on the team, was noticeably reticent to discuss Urlacher’s situation when he met with reporters at Halas Hall.
‘‘I’m just glad he’s back. It’s a tough situation. That’s all,’’ Briggs said.
Urlacher did not speak with the media before practice. And probably won’t for the rest of the week. But nobody doubts he’ll be ready to play. In fact, many are expecting the football-driven Urlacher to respond much like Brett Favre did so dramatically one day after the loss of his father in 2003.
Favre threw four touchdown passes in the first half and was 22-for-30 for 399 yards and a 154.9 passer rating in a 41-7 rout of the Raiders in Oakland.
‘‘I think he’s going to have one of the best games of his career,’’ defensive end Corey Wootton said. ‘‘It’s a tragic loss [for] him and his family. But we’re glad to have him back. He’s definitely going to be playing this one for his mom.’’
The return of Urlacher, a captain and the unquestioned leader of the team, figures to be a boost for the entire team as it prepares to face the Saints at the Superdome.
‘‘It was kind of dead yesterday without him here,’’ Melton said. ‘‘It just really shows how much he really means to us.’’
‘‘What can you say? His play speaks for itself,’’ Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ‘‘He’s the leader of our defense and in the locker room. They just have so much respect for him, and not just as a player, [but] how he conducts himself. He’s a pro — a real pro.’’