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Bears need to stop Brian Urlacher from playing on Sunday

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 12:  Head coach Lovie Smith (L) Brian Urlacher #54 Chicago Bears watch replay during an official

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 12: Head coach Lovie Smith (L) and Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears watch the replay during an official review in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 12, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Updated: October 7, 2012 8:07AM



In the hopes that the people with a vote on Brian Urlacher’s playing status will come to their senses, I’m resurrecting a Dan Hampton quote from last week.

“Whoever wants to play him against Indianapolis is nutty,’’ the Bears Hall of Famer said.

A good number of nutty folks apparently are working for the local football team. You would have had an easier time finding Nemo at Halas Hall on Wednesday than finding anyone who wants Urlacher to sit Sunday against the Colts.

Are the Bears better off if their star linebacker plays in the opener or rests his rebellious left knee?

“The [bigger] benefit to the team — that’s our ability to win games and put our defense in the best position — is Brian Urlacher plays,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said. “That’s the best situation for us.’’

Urlacher practiced with no restrictions Wednesday, which means he’s likely going to play Sunday, which means insanity has established a beachhead. There needs to be one person who, in the face of Urlacher’s deep desire to play, tells him to rest.

That person should be coach Lovie Smith, but he is so smitten with Urlacher and so grateful for all that his middle linebacker has done that I’m not sure the word “no’’ could break the plane of his lips.

If Smith won’t do it, then general manager Phil Emery should. And if Emery won’t, will someone please get in touch with George Halas via the Verizon séance hotline?

It’s hard to understand what the upside is here. The risk is that Urlacher reinjures a knee that has been giving him trouble for months. The reward is they beat a team that went 2-14 last year. Big deal.

When Smith looks at his calendar, he might notice the fat red circle around Sept. 13. That’s the day his team plays the division-rival Packers in Green Bay. It’s also four days after the Colts game. In partnering with Urlacher on the importance of his playing Sunday, the Bears are telling us that all NFL games are created equal. It’s insulting. Anyone in his right mind would want a rested Urlacher for the Packers.

Most football players are willing to play through pain. Most don’t want to let down their teammates. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten reportedly offered to sign a waiver releasing the team from any liability if he reinjured his spleen Wednesday night against the Giants.

That’s why there needs to be the NFL equivalent of a parent making a decision for the child, no matter how much the child stomps his feet.

Urlacher has had two procedures done on the knee, which he hurt in the Bears’ final game last season. No matter how much he wants to be on the field for the opener, someone needs to stop him.

Smith said he could envision a scenario in which he tells Urlacher to take Sunday off.

“Guys, of course, are always going to say that they’re ready to go, but we’ll always watch them and make that final decision,’’ he said. “You want a player to always want to go, but we’ll help him out if it comes to that. But I don’t think it will.’’

The Colts are preparing as if Urlacher will play, which is what the opposing team is supposed to do in this situation. Prepare for the best to show up; count your blessings if he doesn’t.

“I fully expect him to be there,’’ Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “If he’s not, I’ve watched enough tape to know there’s plenty of talent in the linebacker corps over there. We expect him to play, and we expect him to be out there, and that’s how we’re planning and moving forward.’’

Hampton’s quote about Urlacher and the Colts game was unsolicited. I was talking with him about the Bears’ aging defense. Next thing you know, he’s talking about nuttiness and how it relates to the people who think Urlacher should play Sunday. The topic of the linebacker’s knee is on the mind of anyone who is paying attention to this team. If it was on Urlacher’s mind, he was keeping it to himself. He walked past media members without talking.

Someone needs to save the guy from himself. It’s that or hope the Bears know what they’re doing. Remember what Smith asked fans to do several years ago? “Trust me,’’ he said.

I’d trust him a lot more if he said, “Take a knee this week, Brian.’’



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