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LEFT TACKLE IS IN WORSE SHAPE
After a week or so of floppy sideline hats, missed practices and "personal reasons," Brian Urlacher's left knee has been surgically repaired. The thought is he'll be ready for the regular season after a little medical maintenance.
If he misses the rest of preseason, and maybe a game or two, there is reason to believe he will be able to play on it, brace and all. Will he be 100 percent? No, but having Urlacher in the middle at, say, 75 percent, is good enough. With proper precaution and care, maybe he makes it through the season.
But with J'Marcus Webb and/or Chris Williams protecting his blind side, will Jay Cutler make it to his newborn son's first birthday? While the Bears have addressed the persistent lack of talent at receiver, the absence of a trustworthy left tackle remains a head-scratching problem.
There is no arthroscopic surgery to fix these two. If there were, Mike Tice would operate with his trusty No. 2 pencil. Instead, Tice is left to cajole and coach what looks like the worst position battle in the NFL.
The good news is Mike Martz isn't coaching the offense anymore. Tice knows the limitations of his linemen, so he said the Bears will have more of a rhythmic offense, quick-firing and hopefully run-heavy. That alleviates some of the strain on the line, but those two have to be able to clear a path for Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Williams was pretty decent at guard last year, but we've seen his C.V. at tackle. It's not pretty.
In the wake of Tice's blistering comments Monday, Webb wrote a poem about his heart and hustle on his Facebook page. This reinforces what Tice said: "I can't worry about Webb Nation and all the other things he does socially. That's not for me. He's a grown man. I just want him to play better football for us."
That's the worry. Can Webb do it?
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
URLACHER'S KNEE IS BIGGER WORRY
If this were an aging but still somewhat effective offensive lineman we were talking about -- a Big Cat Williams, if you will -- then nursing a knee all season, not practicing and gutting out Sundays for a sub-standard Bears team when all-out lateral movement is not always necessary, OK.
But somehow the concept -- and it is still a concept -- that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are going to turn the Bears into one of the top high-powered offenses in the league and that is supposed to reassure us in the wake of Brian Urlacher's surprise arthroscopic knee surgery, is a stretch at best.
Urlacher, you may remember, was still very effective last season. And at 34, his absence at training camp these last few weeks still elicited some real concern among his teammates. It's a definite void when Urlacher is missing. Young players follow his instructions. Veterans follow his lead. And the Bears defense, while getting older, still holds this team together with Urlacher at middle linebacker.
The left tackle situation is worrisome, no question. But assuming the new, faster-paced offense can help Cutler avoid getting killed, it is still the Bears defense, holding opponents to 21.3 points last season, that needs to be solid up front.
A week ago, most Bears observers were cautious in their concern about Urlacher, holding off for a week at least, until we saw how much more practice he had to miss. Now that it looks like he'll miss most if not all of training camp, it's time to be worried.
The Bears are going to need their defense to hold up this season. And they're going to need Urlacher to be effective.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.