The initial shock of Brian Urlacher's absence quickly vanished once the Chicago Bears started on-field workouts during the offseason, and despite the linebacker's tremendous contributions over the years, it's unlikely the team will miss him much once the season starts.
A little insensitive, perhaps, but that's the reality of a transient NFL.
Besides that, the linebacking corps may have become a better unit with the subtraction of Urlacher paired with the additions of athletic veterans such as D.J. Williams and James Anderson along with rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene. But what about the defense as a whole, which goes into the season without Lovie Smith or Rod Marinelli, the architects of the unit, and Urlacher, the quarterback of the defense?
It's easy to compare the numbers between Urlacher and the departed Nick Roach with Anderson and Williams, who appear at this point more suited to play the run-and-hit style Tucker likes in his linebackers, while giving the team more potential than Urlacher and Roach as pass rushers.
Over the past three years, Urlacher and Roach combined for 5.5 sacks, while Williams and Anderson came together for 15.5 sacks. It's worth noting that with Smith, the Bears didn't utilize linebackers extensively to blitz. It's also noteworthy that Williams and Anderson produced 10 more sacks than Urlacher and Roach over the past three years despite playing in a combined eight fewer games.
Williams played in just seven games in 2012 as a result of multiple suspensions, but produced 10.5 sacks in 2010 and 2011, in addition to 164 tackles.
Even with Williams playing just seven games, he and Anderson posted 106 more tackles than Urlacher and Roach from 2010-12.
Still, the numbers don't illustrate the intangibles Urlacher brought to the team. Urlacher's ability to bring players together, his immense knowledge of the defense and the NFL, his all-Pro past, which likely came in handy when articulating to younger players the expectations for how to play defense as a Chicago Bear. Those are the qualities this defense will miss most with Urlacher not on the field.
It's unknown whether that absence will prove detrimental, but it doesn't appear that will be the case.
With established veterans such as Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, and Tim Jennings, the Bears already own a strong nucleus with up-and-coming players sprinkled in such as Henry Melton and Chris Conte. The team certainly revamped the linebacking corps, but the team made sure to do that with two more established vets in Williams and Anderson.
So for the fans, yes, the absence of Urlacher might hurt. For the team, though, it should be business as usual.