- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher racked up 12 tackles Sunday in a victory over the Carolina Panthers, a performance indicative of how far he's come along in recovering from arthroscopic surgery during training camp.
"I'm as 100 percent as I'm gonna get," he said. "Seven games in, I don't think anyone is 100 percent in this league. But (I'm) as close as I'm gonna get."
Urlacher says it's now a matter of repetition for him, after missing most of training camp. Because of the training camp layoff, Urlacher returned to the lineup rusty, which was apparent during a season-opening Bears win over the Indianapolis Colts in which the linebacker contributed just two tackles.
Since the club's Week 6 break, Urlacher has produced 21 tackles, including two for lost yardage in wins over the Lions and Panthers. He's missed just four tackles all season in 129 snaps against the run. As a pass defender, Urlacher logged a quarterback pressure against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 7 and has broken up four passes in his last three games.
"I think I'm getting better every week," Urlacher said. "The more I'm out there, the better I'm gonna get; just seeing plays. I missed a lot of time during training camp. You don't get to see the plays. You don't realize how rusty you get. So the more I see (the plays), the better I'll get."
A 13-year veteran, Urlacher says the 2012 version of Chicago's defense is the most complete he's been a part of because of the unit's ability to make timely big plays, not to mention a pass rush that has gobbled up the second-most sacks (23) in the NFL with 21 coming courtesy of the front four.
Of the team's 23 takeaways this season, an NFL-high five have come in the red zone, giving the team 37 takeaways in the red zone since Lovie Smith took over in 2004, which ranks as best in the NFL over that span.
"We just make big plays at good times," Urlacher said. "We've gotten pressure all season long. We've been on defenses where we've been good, but we hadn't gotten a lot of pressure. We were just good because we had guys that could play. This year, we have guys that can rush the passer, and a lot of guys that can cover."
That, in turn, has led to turnovers. At least that's Urlacher's theory.
"We practice getting the football all the time. We're creatures of habit," Urlacher said. "If we keep doing it, it's gonna happen. And it's happened all season long; more so this year for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe it is because of the pressure and teams see that on film as well. They know they've got to get rid of the football. We're scoring with the football (too)."