I had a Brian Urlacher thought teed up for a post in my head this morning that I just couldn’t get around to. Then news broke that Urlacher had arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this morning, a cleanup procedure intended to relieve the swelling in his injured left knee. The goal is for Urlacher to be ready to start the regular season on September 9th vs the Colts.
I’ll digress momentarily to the Urlacher thought I had before this news broke – Urlacher should sit out Week 1 vs the Colts and be ready for the Packers game on Thursday night September 13th. First of all, the Bears should be able to handle the 2011 doormat Colts, Andrew Luck and all, even without Urlacher. If they can’t there are bigger issues at play. Skipping Week 1 would have Urlacher that much healthier and ready for the Packers on short rest. If Urlacher is suffering from swelling and pain between practices, how is he going to feel on the shortest turnaround the Bears will face all season, heading into a crucial early-season divisional game.
Urlacher himself admitted that the knee is going to be a problem all season, and that was before the cleanup this morning. Why put himself through the the ringer in a less important (OK, I know they’re all important), non-conference game when the division rival Packers wait in the wings on short rest?
This is the price to be paid with an aging superstar. It’s incumbent on the Bears to protect Urlacher and put him and the team in the best position to succeed.
Back to the bigger picture story about Urlacher’s surgery and that fans should not panic. This Bears team is in a transitional stage, undergoing a metamorphosis from a defense-oriented, black and blue grind it out team to an offensively oriented squad that will outscore teams to win.
The Bears are no longer a one-man show on defense or as a whole. They boast multiple Pro Bowlers at all levels of the defense – on the line, in the linebacking corps and in the secondary. The defense will have to rely on those Pro Bowlers like Peppers, Briggs and Tillman to step up and along with some up-and-coming youngsters like Henry Melton, DJ Moore, Shea McClellin and Nick Roach to ride out the storm while Urlacher recovers and possibly starts the inevitable decline.
On the other side of the ball, the offense have been built to score points in bunches. The focus this offseason has clearly been on building up the offense to compete with the Green Bays and Detroits of the world. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, along with Matt Forte, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett will share the burden to allow the Bears to win games by scoring points rather than stopping their opponents from scoring.
concerned disappointed in the front office for neglecting the linebacker position in the draft and largely in free agency. When your superstar linebacker goes down in Week 17 with a knee injury, wouldn’t it have been prudent to invest a draft pick in a linebacker just in case your star doesn’t return to full form? Doesn’t it even make more sense when that 34-year old is in a contract year? Wouldn’t their leverage be improved if they were grooming someone to take over for Urlacher? Maybe that’s what Shea McClellin is supposed to be down the road? Maybe Emery has a different idea about the defense beyond 2012 anyway?
This won’t be a repeat of 2004 when the Bears could barely win a game when Urlacher went down late in the season when they were led by quarterbacks like Grossman, Hutchinson and Krenzel. This won’t be a repeat of 2009, when Urlacher’s season ended before it began halfway through the first quarter against the Packers in Jay Cutler’s first season but before Peppers was added to change the face of the defense. 2012 will be different because the Bears team is different and if it isn’t, the talk of Super Bowl and championships was just that, talk. And talk is cheap.
What do you think? How concerned are you about Urlacher? Can the Bears make a run at a championship without him at full speed?