Mixed results for Urlacher

There's good news then there's bad news as far as the health status of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is concerned. According to head coach Lovie Smith, Urlacher has sustained a mild hamstring strain that is expected to keep him out of action for the next 4-6 weeks. The good news: Urlacher should be available for the first game of the regular season.

"You never want something like this to happen, especially so early in training camp," Smith said. "But this isn't the first time that football teams have been faced with the unexpected. You just face up to the situation and make the best of it."

For Smith, making the best of it in this case means moving Lance Briggs from the outside position, a situation that Smith sees as somewhat of a positive.

"Lance is an excellent player. Admittedly this will be somewhat of an adjustment for him, to be called on to suddenly become a team leader. But we have faith that he will handle the situation extremely well."

Smith also feels that Urlacher will benefit from the rigors of camp even though he will not actually be out on the field.

"Ideally you want all of your 11 starters out there every minute," Smith said. "But that's just not going to happen. A lot of this game is mental. Brian will be in the classroom doing all of that. He'll be bonding with his teammates and he'll have the system down by the time the season starts."

What about Brigg's learning process?

"Lance is a smart guy and we have complete confidence in him," Smith said. "His progress in the earlier mini camps was everything that we would have wanted. And when he finally moves back to his original position, he will be that much more skilled."

When asked if the players had been told to ease up somewhat in practice due to the number of recent injuries," Smith replied with a definite ‘no'.

"I don't know where you heard that but it's just not true," he said. "This is a hard hitting football team. We are expecting that there will be injuries along the way. It's all part of the process at this level."

Hitting their stride
One of the highlights of Thursday night's practice was a 40-yard sideline pass from Rex Grossman to Justin Gage. Smith seemed delighted with the results.

"That is the kind of thing that will put defenses off of their game. We don't want to be predictable, doing the same type of thing play after play," Smith said. "We are going to have the short game, the long game, and some surprises in between."

Smith seemed pleased that Gage was becoming one of Grossman's favorite receivers, a situation that would benefit both players.

"I like the boldness that Rex is showing" Smith said. "He goes in there and airs it all out. He has confidence. Justin is stepping up and making some big plays. That was what we had thought he could be capable of all along."

Injury Update
Marty Booker will not practice Friday due to a hamstring strain and Jerry Azumah is day-to-because of a stinger suffered in Thursday's morning practice. John Tait remains questionable because of a groin injury. Bernard Berrian is also out due to a hamstring injury.

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