Urlacher's Absence Felt In Chicago

The differences between a Bears team with Brian Urlacher and without the middle linebacker are revealing.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher practiced at full speed Wednesday inside the Walter Payton Center just 17 days after suffering a calf injury that required surgery early the following morning to relieve swelling caused by internal bleeding.

Urlacher, who was released from Northwestern Memorial Hospital 12 days ago, should be back in the starting lineup Sunday if there are no setbacks. He will then have missed just two games even though he was originally expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

Coach Lovie Smith was happy to discuss the benefits of the four-time Pro Bowler's return.

"I think (teams) definitely look at us a little differently when he's out there," Smith said. "He's an imposing force. He's an All-Pro player. We're different with him out there; people know that. They will attack us differently with him there, so a lot changes once we get our big guy in the middle."

The Bears are 0-4 without Urlacher, losing 27-22 to the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 3 and 19-9 to the Eagles at home the following week when the former first-round pick was sidelined with a strained hamstring. In the last two games, the Bears were outscored 62-17 by the Colts and Cowboys with Urlacher out of the lineup.

"We continued on without him, but he's a great player," Smith said. "The Mike (middle) linebacker has a lot to do with how you play the run; play the pass. We put a lot on our Mike linebacker. (We miss) his leadership and just being able to make plays. We're a lot better team with him out there."

The Bears are 1-4 at Soldier Field, one of 12 NFL teams under .500 at home.

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