Urlacher getting Closer to Return

LAKE FOREST — Since returning to Halas Hall Brian Urlacher has been running close to full speed on the sideline, as the team practices. While he hasn't fully recovered from a hamstring strain, the middle linebacker could play in the preseason finale.

"Ideally, we would like to," Lovie Smith said of Urlacher's chances of playing against the Browns on Sept. 3. "He's making progress but he isn't ready right now really to actually take on blocks and play. He can run and there's no pain, but he's still probably a week away."

Without knowing if the hamstring is completely healed there is some risk involved in playing Urlacher, but at some point the team is going to have let him test it out.

When Urlacher returns to the lineup Lance Briggs will definitely join him at one of the outside linebacker spots. However Marcus Reese's hamstring injury could mean he's out of the running at the weak side.

Reese went from the practice squad in his rookie season to working with the first team for the majority of training camp. Considering he hadn't locked up a starting role Reese wants to be back on the field as soon as possible, but Smith has said the injury could keep him out four to six weeks.

The injury leaves the door open for Joe Odom to step back in on the strong side, which would allow Briggs to play at weak.

Breaking a Sweat: DE Adewale Ogunleye has played football since participating in the Pro Bowl back in February, so the Bears are trying to ease him back into action. He didn't practice Tuesday, but did take part in individual skills work and conditioning.

"We really tried to get his feet back under him," Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "He hadn't played football since the end of the season last year. We wanted to bring him along and get his conditioning and try to check and see how he's doing right now. He did well. He moved around well. He's obviously not in football shape, but that will come with time and with practice."

Considering the six-year $33.4 million contract Ogunleye receiver from the Bears, he could put pressure on himself to try and justify the deal.

"You don't want him where he's thinking about where he needs to be, and running into somebody or somebody is running into him," Rivera said. "I think right now we need to bring him along, but we need to be careful with him because everybody else is moving at full speed and unfortunately he'll be thinking a little bit right now."

Ogunleye will not play Friday against the New Orleans Saints. He could make his on the field debut in the preseason final at Cleveland.

Also Tuesday, Terrence Metcalf practiced for the first time in about two weeks and was playing both backup guard and backup center.

Guard Aaron Gibson missed practice due to a stomach illness.

Trimming Down: Heading into training camp there figured to be a few surprise cuts along the way considering it's Lovie Smith's first year as a head coach and he wants to shape the team with his vision.

Tuesday the Bears waived defensive lineman Joe Tafoya, who had been with the team the previous three seasons. Despite being a solid special teams player, it would have been difficult for Tafoya to make the 53-man roster before the team traded for DE Adewale Ogunleye. The acquisition sealed Tafoya's fate in Chicago because the team has several young ends they want to keep on the roster and possibly even the practice squad.

As strange as it may sound, the Bears tried to help Tafoya when they cut him this early so he'll have a chance to catch on with another team. If Chicago had waited until the final roster cuts, which are on Sept. 5th, Tafoya would have had a much harder time finding work.

Tafoya played 35 games for the team, including one start in 2002, and recorded 19 total tackles (11 solos) plus 28 special teams tackles. The 6-4, 265-pounder ranked second on the Bears with a career-high 14 special teams tackles last year while participating in a career-high 16 games.

A seventh-round draft pick (234th overall) by Tampa Bay in 2001, Tafoya initially joined Chicago's practice squad on Oct. 9, 2001 and was elevated to the active roster on Oct. 23, 2001.

Under the Weather: Tuesday's only longer practice this week was halted after an hour due to lightning. Players went in Halas Hall, but returned to finish drills 15 minutes.


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