Bears move Nick Roach to middle, Geno Hayes to strong side
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org December 5, 2012 8:56PM
Geno Hayes (91) will play strong-side linebacker for Nick Roach, who will move into the middle. | Getty Images
Updated: January 7, 2013 1:31PM
Geno Hayes will take over at strong-side linebacker, and Nick Roach will move into the middle as the days and weeks without Brian Urlacher commence.
Hayes and Roach are veterans, but everyone knows the arduous task the Bears have in front of them with Urlacher sidelined for the next few weeks with a hamstring injury.
“You can’t replace that,” Hayes said. “Urlacher is one of a kind.”
Though he’s not as mobile as he once was, Urlacher quietly has put together a strong season, despite having to work his way back from knee surgery in the summer.
According to the Bears’ statistics, Urlacher leads the team with 88 tackles (56 solo) and has seven tackles for loss, which is tied with Lance Briggs for the team lead. He also has seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception return for a touchdown.
Those aren’t bad numbers for any linebacker, let alone one who is 34 and has endured the type of injuries that Urlacher has in his career.
On Wednesday, he officially was ruled out for the game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears are 7-15 in games Urlacher hasn’t played since he was drafted in 2000.
“Hopefully, we’ll have him back sometime,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Urlacher’s irreplaceable qualities were the main topics at Halas Hall.
“Brian is definitely the heart of our team,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “I recognized that right away when I got traded here.”
“The sooner we get him back the better,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.
Smith said the Bears will miss Urlacher “in all phases.”
“He makes all of the calls,” Smith said. “Just him being in the huddle helps. We’re going to miss him. I can’t belittle that at all. We’re missing a great player. But you just have to look at Plan B. Plan B for us is pretty good if you do lose a guy like that.”
“Plan B” is Roach. He started three games in place of an injured Urlacher in 2009 and played in the middle this preseason.
Hayes described Roach, who will make the calls, as “a very vocal guy” on the field with a quiet demeanor off it. Hayes also said Roach will be able to help him on the strong side.
“Nick is going to do a great job,” Hayes said. “He’s going to step into that role and make the plays that we need to make at middle linebacker. We’re not really worried about that. We’re still going to have Urlacher on the sideline, giving us tips.”
The Bears also will lean on Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman, the other mainstays of the Bears’ defense.
“We have a lot of leaders in the locker room, just on that side of the ball alone,” Marshall said.
But there’s no denying the void left by an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a likely Hall of Famer.
“When you lose a leader like Urlacher, it’s tough,” defensive back Kelvin Hayden said. “It’s tough mentally more than anything. He’s a guy who knows the defense and gets guys set up and things as such. It’s going to be tough, but it is what it is.”