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Monday, September 14, 2009
Replacing Urlacher



Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Let’s keep the Bears train rolling here Monday morning. Updating previous reports, linebacker Brian Urlacher has told the Chicago Tribune he will miss the rest of the season after dislocating his right wrist in Sunday night’s 21-15 loss to Green Bay.
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
After dislocating his right wrist, Brian Urlacher is expected to miss the rest of the season.

It’s an unprecedented turn of events for Urlacher, who had started 49 consecutive games and has missed a total of only seven games (all in the 2004 season) in his 10-year career. For the first time this decade, the Bears are going to have to play the majority of a season without one of the players their defense is built around.

At some point, we’ll have to discuss the impact of this news on Urlacher’s long-term future. He’ll turn 32 before he plays in another game and has the kind of beat-up body you would expect from a linebacker who has played as long as he has. But for now, we should take a look at the Bears’ limited options for replacing him this season. In order of likelihood:
  1. Hunter Hillenmeyer made the roster primarily as insurance against Urlacher’s health. He’s not quick enough to play on the strong side anymore, but Hillenmeyer knows the Bears' scheme and can provide some leadership at the position. (You might recall he started six games for Urlacher in 2004.) Hillenmeyer won’t embarrass the Bears in this role.
  2. Nick Roach would have been a possibility here. But it looks like he’s going to have to fill in for new strongside starter Pisa Tinoisamoa, who sprained his posterior cruciate ligament Sunday night and could miss several weeks.
  3. Jamar Williams has gotten some work at middle linebacker and could be an in-house option if Hillenmeyer doesn’t pan out. Williams is primarily a special-teams player.
  4. Derrick Brooks’ name has come up already Monday morning because he is available and once played for Bears coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. But you have to wonder how long it would take Brooks to get into football shape after going unsigned during training camp. There’s no doubt Brooks knows the Tampa 2 defense, but don’t forget he played the weakside position in the scheme for most of his time in Tampa Bay.