Ready to Go

LAKE FOREST - Despite not playing a down in the preseason, Brian Urlacher plans to be on the field come the season opener vs. Detroit.

"I'd like to play the whole game, but they're not going to let me," Urlacher said. " I want to be out there as much as I can, but it's not going to happen, I know that. But I'll be ready to go against Detroit and that's all that matters."

The 26-year old has never had to sit because of injury. Having to watch his teammates for more than a month has made him appreciate the game on a new level.

"I definitely missed it. Just being able to do what you want to do all the time when you're healthy is a huge thing. I never had to miss any time for anything, so this was frustrating," Urlacher said. "I couldn't run, couldn't do anything. But I definitely appreciate being able to every day, I know that much."

Urlacher wasn't involved in a turnover last season and had a career low 2.5 sacks. The Bears need more out of him in Lovie Smith's big-play defense.

Adewale Ogunleye should take some of the focus off the four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, as he's expected to provide the pass rush the Bears have lacked since Urlacher came to Chicago in 2000.

The Bears also added depth at defensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft. Over the past two weeks first-round pick Tommie Harris has been improving at a rapid pace and could start the season with the first string defense.

Charles Tillman has done nothing to take away from his reputation as a shutdown cornerback.

Lance Briggs has established himself as a playmaker at weak-side linebacker.

The talent around Urlacher should help him have a great season, but he has his sights set on the Defensive Player of the Year.

"It's still right there. That's my goal," Urlacher said of winning the honor. "I think it's attainable with this defense and the players we have around myself."

With Urlacher back in the on the field, Smith has seen the defense pick their game up as a whole.

"We're getting closer to what we want to be and Brian of course just really is a big plus toward the defense," Smith said. "You need a director, a leader to let the guys know what we're playing to let them know that it is OK, to call out the formation. We're a different defense out there. Our core players have to step up and that's what it seems like they're going to do."

However the unit will not have a chance to play together in game conditions until Sept. 12, which should make for an interesting season opener.


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