Coach's Big Decision: Urlacher's reps

Brian Urlacher expects to play the entire game against the Colts on Sunday. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Despite his confidence in Brian Urlacher's ability to successfully recovery from an August arthroscopic knee surgery, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith might wind up making some difficult decisions about how to distribute the linebacker’s repetitions Sunday when the team hosts the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field.

Urlacher plans to play the entire game, and has said as much. But Smith admitted earlier during the week at practice that he needs to be smart about how the team distributes Urlacher’s reps, which is the main reason the Bears kept him off the field Thursday during practice.

So while Smith and the medical staff will watch Urlacher closely against the Colts, the question for the coach is how many repetitions are too much? Urlacher wants to play the entire game, but if he’s ineffective, Smith needs to rest him and insert his replacement to preserve the perennial Pro Bowler for later in the season. It’s also worth noting their turnaround after the Colts game will be quick, considering the Bears face the Green Bay Packers four days later.

What if the Bears gain a sizable lead against the Colts? Should Smith pull Urlacher out of action? That might end up being a difficult decision for Smith to make. On one hand, in order for Urlacher to strengthen the knee and gain the level of cardiovascular fitness he desires, he needs to play full speed in real games. But if Urlacher does that, the risk of re-injuring the knee increases.