Brian Urlacher has knee scoped
Seifert: Year of maintenance for Urlacher
Brian Urlacher's health is the most significant issue facing the Bears as a franchise, Kevin Seifert writes. Blog
Emery said the goal remains for Urlacher to be ready for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Urlacher sprained the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee during the Bears' 2011 regular-season finale in Minnesota when safety Major Wright collided with him going for an interception in the end zone.
Urlacher missed all of the offseason workouts but consistently maintained he would be 100 percent for training camp. But after participating in the first several practices, the knee began to swell, and the 34-year-old hasn't practiced since. Although some absences from practice were due to what was described as personal reasons, it's obvious the knee issues aren't going away.
"As Brian came back, he was moving around very well in the early stages of camp," Emery said. "It reached a point where he started feeling soreness. He started having some slight swelling.
(The knee is) probably going to be (an issue all season long). I don't see it getting any better during the season. We have to manage it, my reps in practice, and then get through Sunday.” -- Brian Urlacher
to FOX Chicago
"We decided it was best to be as conservative and careful as we could to give him the rest he needed. He had that rest. He felt better. He came back. He started practicing. He still didn't feel completely comfortable with it. Consulting with Brian, talking to our team physicians and trainers, we decided to go ahead and move forward and have it scoped. Basically, a cleanup procedure to try to relieve some of the swelling so that the soreness would go away and Brian would be ready for the home opener."
Emery, hired Jan. 28 after Jerry Angelo was dismissed, was asked why the procedure wasn't done sooner.
"As far as the procedure to the knee, I wasn't here at the beginning of that," Emery said. "I saw Brian when I came into the situation as someone who was actively rehabbing and working very hard and felt good, so that looks like that decision was a good decision.
"It's just a matter of when he got out here in full-speed reps with pads on and a helmet on and started moving around and making some of the lateral cuts that you have to make at that position, he started experiencing soreness and swelling, and the end result is where we're at now."
ESPN medical analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan, who has not treated Urlacher, believes a Week 1 return might be too optimistic.
"It's a little aggressive to have him back for the opener," Kaplan said Tuesday on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on ESPN 1000. "I'm not sure or confident that that is going to happen. Obviously it's something to shoot toward, but it's going to matter really how much damage he has to the joint surface.
"They will clean it up as they said and then along the way during the season if he has flare-ups, pain, swelling, they can inject him with steroids, they can give him the synthetic lubricant injection, give him anti-inflammatory medicines, therapy, stuff just to keep it manageable so he can get through the season."
Urlacher granted a one-on-one interview Monday night with Fox Chicago. He denied having a procedure done to his knee at that point and gave no indication one was imminent.
But Urlacher did admit it's something he's likely going to have to deal with all season.
"It's probably going to be (an issue all season long)," Urlacher told Fox Chicago. "I don't see it getting any better during the season. We have to manage it, my reps in practice and then get through Sunday."
It's an important season for Urlacher, who's entering the last year of his contract. Bears management has said there won't be any negotiations during the season, and while Urlacher said he wants to remain with the team that drafted him in 2000, he's prepared to see what's available via free agency.
In that context, Urlacher was asked about taking care of his knee versus trying to prove he's healthy.
"It is hard, but there is a fine line between pushing it and kind of easing into it, which is what I need to do," Urlacher said. "I just have to get back out there for (the Sept. 9 regular-season opener). Even if I just practice the week before, I'll be in good enough shape to make it through those games. But I have to be out there when the games count."
Urlacher admitted that practicing early in camp may have negatively affected his knee.
"Being out there for two and a half, three hours probably didn't help, and running around," he said. "But it's practice, you gotta do it.
"I think just the shock of being out there so long and doing so many movements like that was too much for my knee."
Nick Roach, entering his sixth season, will replace Urlacher at middle linebacker, and his experience gives his teammates confidence that he's up to the task. But the Bears are still hoping Urlacher returns in time for the season opener.
"This is the preseason," Lance Briggs said. "Brian has been through this a number of times. He'll be OK. But having him around when the regular season comes, that's what's most important.
"He's a competitor, and in his heart, he wants to be out on the field, playing football with the rest of us. It really tears at him that he can't do that right now. But, it's a long season -- a very long season -- and we have 16 games to get into the playoffs, in order to get ourselves into a position to play in the Super Bowl and win the thing."