Losing Games Not Only Hurdle

Lake Forest - While the Bears cling to flimsy playoff hopes and talk about finishing strong, they will have to overcome some major injuries to do so.

The most notable member of the walking wounded is middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who was unable to finish Sunday's game because of a strained left hamstring. He is not expected to play this week, and it's uncertain whether he will be back this season.

Guard Rex Tucker is headed to injured reserve because of a hamstring injury that sidelined him Sunday, and offensive right tackle John Tait is unlikely to be back this week from a sprained right knee that caused him to miss the last two games.

The continued absence of two offensive line starters doesn't bode well for a patchwork group that has had great difficulty protecting the quarterback in recent weeks. And the loss of Urlacher robs the defense of its leader.

"We don't know a lot more about where (Urlacher) is, except it's a hamstring injury, and he pulled it a little bit," coach Lovie Smith said Monday afternoon. "We're getting an MRI done on him, and we'll know a little bit more a little bit later on."

Earlier in the afternoon, Urlacher was asked how his leg was as he walked away from reporters in the locker room.

"Which leg?" was his only reply as he strolled, without a limp, through a door to the training room.

Smith said the Bears aren't yet considering shutting down their four-time Pro Bowler for the remainder of the season.

"We're going to see," Smith said. "We think it will take care of itself as to how bad the hamstring injury is. If guys are healthy, they're a part of the team, we need them out there. If they're not, we have to move on and play without them. We played without Brian quite a few games this year, so it's not like it's a shock to our system right now if he can't play."

Actually, it has been a bit of a shock. Urlacher missed the third and fourth games of the season with a strained right hamstring, and he sat out Games 11 and 12 after calf surgery. The Bears went 0-4 in those games. In games that Urlacher hasn't started, the Bears have allowed an average of 27 points. When Urlacher starts, the Bears permit an average of 16.6 points per game.

Despite the gloomy playoff picture and the depressing medical situation, defensive end Michael Haynes said it wouldn't be difficult to persevere and continue hoping for a minor miracle.

"Each and every week we're going out there and trying to prove we're one of the better defenses in the NFL," Haynes said. "No matter what our record is, no matter how many plays we've played, we're going out there and trying to prove that."

So, it's understandable that Urlacher's presence would be appreciated. But with the playoffs all but a dream, and considering this is the 26-year-old's third leg injury this season, Smith was pressed on the possibility of keeping the team's franchise player sidelined for the remainder of the season.

"Before we play anybody, we let them heal," Smith said. "He had healed up (from the previous hamstring injury). This was his other leg. He hadn't had any trouble with it. Every great sprinter you've seen has pulled a hamstring before. They get well, and you move on. We'll take every precaution with Brian. When he's ready to go, we'll put him back out there, but not a second before."

Bear Report Top Stories