The question has never been whether Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher would return from arthroscopic knee surgery in time for the start of the 2012 regular season. To me, it has always been about how effective Urlacher would be upon his return and the extent to which he could maintain the knee during the rigors of a 16-game season.
From that perspective, there should have been no surprise Tuesday that Bears coach Lovie Smith predicted Urlacher will be ready to begin practicing next week and play in the Sept. 9 season-opening game against the Indianapolis Colts. That was the whole purpose in having surgery in the first place.
The unanswered question can't be addressed until the days in between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13, when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers in a quick turnaround for Week 2. How did Urlacher play and move against the Colts? How did the knee respond in the ensuing days? How much practice time will he need to miss to be ready for the Packers, and then fall into a regular-season routine?
Those are the questions that Bears fans should be eager to see addressed.