KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum Turf
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
KEYS TO THE GAME:
It will be a battle of wills, with the Saints' penchant for stretching the field going up against a Bears defense that doesn't blitz often and focuses on keeping completions in front of its defensive backs. The Saints will be without WR Marques Colston (broken collarbone), but hope to get Lance Moore (groin) back. The Bears also came out throwing last week, with QB Jay Cutler completing passes to nine different receivers. With the Saints' issues in coverage, it could be another week until Chicago rededicates itself to the ground game.
The Bears' first three opponents this season won a combined 34 regular-season games in 2010. ... RB Darren Sproles had 250 all-purpose yards in his Saints debut.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Brian Urlacher practiced Thursday after returning from Texas, where he spent the previous two days with family after his mother, 51-year-old Lavoyda Lenard, died unexpectedly Monday night.
LB Brian Urlacher
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
Urlacher intends to play Sunday, a week after he was named NFC defensive player of the week for his 10 tackles, interception and fumble return for a touchdown that helped the Bears whip the Falcons 30-12.
"His play speaks for itself," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's been as good as anybody in this league for a lot of years, but he (also) brings leadership to the defense, and the knowledge, the command of the huddle and command of the system. He's got a PhD in this system, and it shows.
"There's no doubt he's the leader of our defense and in the locker room. (Teammates) just have so much respect for him, not just as a player, but just how he conducts himself."
Coach Lovie Smith said Urlacher is trying to keep this week as normal as he can under the circumstances.
"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," Smith said. "It was good to get him back, see his face and show some support that way. Football is pretty important to him, so you know he's excited about playing the game this Sunday."
It's important to his teammates to have Urlacher back, and nose tackle Anthony Adams, a teammate for five seasons, believes the game can be therapeutic.
"Football is the only sport where you can physically beat a man and not get taken to jail," Adams said. "You can let out all your aggressions on somebody and just leave it out on the field.
"He's just a phenomenal person and a phenomenal athlete. Him not being on the field is like the Beatles breaking up or something."
Before Urlacher returned, coach Lovie Smith said, "I know sometimes when you're going through tough times, the best thing for you to do is to get back to something that you like doing, and football is very important to Brian."
Smith can empathize with Urlacher's situation.
"I lost my mother earlier this year," the Bears coach said. "One of the first guys on the telephone with me was Brian. I'm lucky to be his coach. But our relationship goes a lot further than that.
"Our players of course are concerned, and we're giving him family time right now. We're just going to be there to support him in any way that we can and just be there to help him through a tough time. Unless you've been through it, there's no way to make it any better than it is at the time, but he'll get through it."
After published reports had Saints quarterback Drew Brees and club officials far apart on a possible contract extension, agent Tom Condon paid a visit to the team's training facility in suburban New Orleans this week.
QB Drew Brees
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Brees, who is in the final year of a six-year, $60 million contract he signed in March 2006, said near the end of training camp that his agent and the team had been having ongoing talks about a new deal which everyone believes is inevitable.
But shortly after Brees told reporters that both sides had been talking, a report surfaced that indicated he and the team weren't nearly as close to a resolution as some people may have thought.
Condon visited with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis on Tuesday and told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he couldn't try to characterize how far along the talks are.
"We spent a good deal of time together and had a substantial talk," Condon told the paper.
"My agent and Mickey are in ongoing discussions," Brees said. "For me, I'm trying to compartmentalize it the best I can. Obviously, I'm involved to an extent. I have other very important things to think about in preparing for the upcoming games, that's why I hired my agent. They all have a job to do.
"I'm hoping it will be done sooner rather than later. But for me really, it's about focusing on winning games and trying for it to not be a distraction."
--RB Marion Barber (calf) did not practice Thursday after seeing limited practice time on Wednesday. Best guess is that the Bears give him an additional week to recover fully.
--SS Chris Harris (hamstring) did not practice Thursday and chances are that Brandon Meriweather, who was being groomed to take Major Wright's spot at free safety, may handle strong safety this week instead.
--WR Roy Williams (groin) did not return to practice on Thursday and seems doubtful for Sunday.
--RG Lance Louis (ankle) missed practice again on Thursday and is not expected to play on Sunday.
--WR Marques Colston did not practice Thursday as he recovers from surgery to repair a fractured right collarbone and is expected to miss at least four games.
--DT Shaun Rogers was excused from practice Thursday because of a family-related issue and his status for Sunday's game is unknown.
--RCB Tracy Porter had tightness and pain in his calf and was held out of Thursday's practice, and his availability for Sunday was not known.
--DT Tom Johnson continues to be bothered by a calf injury and did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
--SS Roman Harper returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing Wednesday's workout with an ankle injury.
--WR Lance Moore was limited in practice again Thursday because of a groin problem, but hopes to be ready for the Bears.
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