It is a fair question to ask after the news today that Urlacher underwent an arthroscopic procedure to clean up tissue on his injured left knee. I'm sure I'm not the only one who heard this news and immediately got that nervous feeling in my stomach that this could be an early nail in the Bears' 2012 season. Urlacher tried to cool off any jitters like I experienced by saying he intends to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season on September 9th when the Bears take on the Indianapolis Colts. As much as I take Urlacher for his word, I have my doubts. Trust me, I want to believe Urlacher and I hope as a Bears fan that he is chasing down Andrew Luck and welcoming him to the NFL with a tackle so devastating that it leaves him with permanent "deer in the headlights" eyes. I just can't help but think about the absolute worst case scenario. What if Urlacher's knee never recovers? What if it causes him such pain throughout the season he has no choice but to call it a career earlier than he expected?
No one wants that to be a reality, especially me. Brian Urlacher has been one of the first Bears that I can proudly say I saw start as an up and coming rookie and become an all out beast and future Hall of Famer. I've followed him from the very beginning of his Bears career and proudly show off the autographed football I got from him in his rookie season. Hell, I even settled for a XXXL size Urlacher jersey during his rookie year when they were harder to find then an attractive picture of Kristen Stewart. He is one of my all time favorites to ever wear the navy blue, which is why this current development has me all the more worried.
All of this started on the last play by the Vikings offense in the last game of last season. Urlacher went up to deflect a possible game winning touchdown pass to the Vikings' Percy Harvin along with safety Major Wright when they collided mid-air and Urlacher landed in a gruesome position with his left knee buckling sideways under his and Wright's weight. The awkward landing sent Urlacher to the ground and writhing in pain. It turned out he had a sprained MCL. In what was all ready a heart breaker of a season after Cutler and Forte went down and had to watch playoff hopes go by the wayside with every Frank Omiyale false start, this was devastating.
That happened on January 1st of this year. It is now over eight months later and football is in the air with training camps around the country in full swing and the pre-season about to go in to it's second week, but you would be hard pressed to find #54 anywhere on any of the field in Bourbonnais. He played in limited practices before having a few veteran's days off and then being away from the team for personal issues. After missing the first pre-season game it was nice to see Brian back at the practice field even if he wasn't in pads, it showed encouragement that he would possibly be back to play in the third pre-season game. Then the news today that he had his injured knee scoped.
I'm no doctor. I can't even diagnose a random cough without checking WebMd for symptoms, but something tells me that a sprained MCL should be healed by now. Jay Cutler suffered an MCL injury the season before and was in training camp right off the bat. The Vikings' Adrian Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL and looks like he will be ready for Week 1 action even though his injuries usually take up to a year to recover. Now, could it play in to age? Both Cutler and Petereson are younger than Urlacher and injuries do tend to nag as the body gets older and takes longer to heal. However, this most recent setback is alarming because it shows that Urlacher is still laboring from an injury that usually has a recovery time table of 6-8 weeks.
Urlacher has all ready stated publicly that he will wear a knee brace going in to the season. Multiple reports are saying that the knee may bother him so much that he can't practice in between games and will only play on game days, but to what effect? Brian Urlacher may be the most versatile linebacker not only currently, but of all time. His ability to go sideline to sideline and chase down opponents are what make him the dominant force of the Bears defense. If this knee injury continues to nag him throughout the season and we don't see the same explosiveness, speed and agility that we now think are commonplace, would it at all surprise you to hear that Urlacher is going to hang it up for good?
He has stated his time in football is almost over, hoping to play a few more seasons before riding off in to NFL retirement. The current state of his knee and lack of progress it seems to have made since January could be the deciding factor if Urlacher decides to hang it up earlier than expected. No one wants to see that. We want to see the face of the franchise retire on his own terms, as a lifelong Bear, and hopefully with a bright and shiny Super Bowl ring to accompany him. Let's just hope this isn't an abbreviated ending on a storied career.
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