At this point it's hard to tell how extensive his problem will be. The hamstring is a long muscle and it can take quite a while to heal. Unlike something like a knee or an ankle injury, which you can play with after a while, the hamstring must heal fully. You just can't run effectively without its being in good shape and you definitely can't be on the field during a football practice.
My theory about how Brian Urlacher's injury happened is that he was probably trying to leverage against Olin Kreutz. Under that kind of situation, the quads press in on the hamstring and it can get hurt. Did it get pulled or torn? Nobody knows the answer to that question yet. Important distinction in terms of healing time, though.
How will this affect the morale of the team? Other than the psychological shock when the injury occurred yesterday, I think that all will go on, as it would have if Urlacher had not been hurt. People are going to step up and do their jobs.
When I played with Mike Ditka, we kind of expected him to go down during that first week of camp. Remember that those were the days when most of us had to work other jobs during the off season just to feed our families. We weren't coming into camp in the kind of condition these guys do now.
Also, we were kind of a hard living bunch. We'd work out in the heat all day, and this was way before Gatorade was available, then we'd get dehydrated. We drank water after practice and later would go to the bars at night and rehydrate with beer. It was pretty hard working out the next morning with a hangover, but everybody made it. It's surprising that more players weren't injured. Things are much more controlled in the NFL's camps these days.
Typical story: One year Mike did something to his foot, I believe the problem was with his arch. He had a full cast on it and just sat on the sidelines fuming. Mike was so competitive and couldn't tolerate not being out there on the field. You could tell he wanted to get back in no matter what his physical problems might be.
I had the room next to his at camp and one night he came in and said ‘Mike, we're taking the cast off right now' and that's exactly what we did. We cut it off with anything we could find that was sharp enough to do the job. Can you imagine a player getting away with that today?
Anyway, from that point on, Mike considered himself healed. He played through the rest of the season. In retrospect, I think that could be how he ended up with bad hips. His arch never healed correctly and threw off the rest of his body.
So here's the current situation: Urlacher is out and the Bears are going to deal with it. Nobody wants to begin camp with one of the top players being taken off the field in a motorized cart but we need more information as far as the seriousness of the problem. The season hasn't been lost. Players are going to step up. There is plenty of time for Urlacher, who is in suburb physical condition, to return to the squad. Let's go on from here, see what happens, and enjoy this camp. This is an exciting time of the year. It's the beginning of football season.
Mike Pyle played for the Bears from 1961-69 and continues to follow the team by his work in the media.