Another chance to make a first impression

June 4 was quite a day for the Urlacher family. Not only was Bears star linebacker Brian signed to a franchise record breaking 9 year multimillion dollar contract, but his younger brother Casey, who played both linebacker and fullback at Lake Forest (Ill.) College, also joined the Bears as a free agent fullback. Casey will be wearing #37 when passing camp starts in Lake Forest next week.<P>Bear Report spoke to Casey by phone from Halas Hall where he was receiving his final pre-camp physical.

What can I say? It's been an amazing week. So much has happened that it is hard to absorb everything right now. All I know is that I am tremendously excited for Brian and for myself.

Both of us feel very comfortable in Chicago. The Bears are a great team. This is our home and I don't think that either of us really wanted to be playing anywhere else. Now that Brian's contract has been signed, he can relax and get on with the business of football. I feel the same way. The uncertainty of the draft period is a very difficult thing. Knowing that I have a chance with the Bears takes a lot of that anxiety away and frees me up to concentrate on my game.

As I have said earlier, Draft weekend was a difficult time. It's not much fun to be sitting there wondering when you will be taken or if you will be taken. But if you aren't selected during the draft, that is when the talents of your agent really come into play. I spoke to Steve quite a bit during the draft and immediately after it was over. He did a great job for me and I really appreciate it.

I had my first chance to work out with the Bears the weekend after the draft was over. It was a great opportunity to see how comfortable I felt at Halas Hall, and to find out how my play measures up at the professional level.

As an athlete, you always hear about the difference between college and pro ball. You just can't believe that the stories are really true until you get on the field for the first time. I was amazed at the speed of the game and the skill of the players.

I'd say that just about everything happens about 100 times faster at the professional level than in college ball. There's so little time to react. It really has to be instinctual because if you stop to think about things, you're going to be completely out of the play. This probably is where most rookies have the hardest adjustment. You go from being a top player who has a lot of control on the field to a newcomer who is trying to keep up. That's a tremendous change.

The most surprising part of the transition to the pros is the way a player's skill level rises to meet the level of the competition. You do what you need to do. I can't think of any better way to improve my game than to have the chance to go up against these players. You really want to show them what you can do.

All in all, I felt quite satisfied with my performance during the April mini camp. I liked being out there and having the chance to do my thing. It was surprisingly comfortable. This is a tremendous tribute to my college coaches and to Chip Smith, who has been training me at his facility in Atlanta for the past several months. I feel well prepared and ready to go.

If there's time, I might go back to Atlanta to work with Chip a little more, but I'll have to wait and see what the Bears staff has to say about that. I've heard that rookies are supposed to stay at Halas Hall. If that's the case, then it's fine with me. I'll just do the training right here.

So far, I'm not working with any particular Bears coach. I'm sure that will happen pretty soon as the rookies begin to concentrate on their specialties. I am going with my usual workout and nutrition routines, which have done well for me so far. I had originally thought of taking some time off from training after the first mini camp, but the more I considered that, it didn't make sense. If anything, this is the time to step up on workouts and keep the momentum going.

The one break I did take was in early May when my family came in for graduation. My brother, my sister, my mom and my father all came to Lake Forest College. It was great to see everybody and to have the chance to celebrate as a family. But now, it's back to the grindstone.

I look back at what has happened since the whole draft process began and I can't believe how fortunate I've been. It's just incredibly exciting to be so close to a lifelong dream and to have the chance to play with Brian makes it that much better. I'm grateful for this opportunity. I know that I can play at this level. I'm ready for whatever they tell me to do. You can be sure that I'll work as hard as I can to make this team.

Beth Gorr contributed to this article.

To view Casey Urlacher's official site, "click here."

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