Brian Urlacher eyes opener vs. Colts

Updated: August 16, 2012, 8:42 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Even two days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher refused to deviate from his previously stated goal of playing in the team's Sept. 9 season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

"It just didn't feel like it was getting any better. So we decided as a team and as a training staff that it would be better to do that, and that's what we did," Urlacher said Thursday. "September 9th, that's all I care about. Our goal is September 9th."

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.

CSNChicago.com reported Thursday that Tuesday's procedure actually was the third done on Urlacher's knee since the end of last season, according to sources.

A Bears spokesman said the team would have no comment on the report.

Throughout the entire recovery process, even when after missing several training camp workouts, Urlacher maintained he planned to be in the starting lineup when the Bears opened the regular season against the Colts.

Urlacher, 34, missed six consecutive workouts entering the team's preseason-opening loss to the Denver Broncos on Aug. 9, which the linebacker didn't attend.

Four of the absences were attributed to soreness in his left knee. The team excused him for two more so he could deal with a personal matter. Urlacher returned to Olivet Nazarene University with the rest of the team to resume practices in preparation for Saturday's matchup against the Washington Redskins, but hasn't been able to work with the club.

Urlacher said he decided Monday night to undergo the arthroscopic debridement or clean-up procedure. By Tuesday afternoon, the treatment had been finished. Urlacher had hoped to avoid surgery, but with the regular season fast approaching, he concluded the procedure would speed the healing process, while alleviating some of the pain and swelling he's experienced.

"It's just taken longer than I wanted," Urlacher said. "I felt really good at the beginning of training camp, and I think I just aggravated it a little bit practicing those first few days. It kind of flared up on me, swelled up. (There) was some pain in there. So it is frustrating because after seven months, you'd think you'd be healthy again. But I should be good to go now."

The plan is for the staff and Urlacher to monitor the knee closely. Urlacher missed several games in 2004 because of a sore hamstring. While recovering, he practiced just two days a week and envisions a similar scenario unfolding with how the club manages this latest injury.

"This (training camp) stuff is important, but that game (on Sept. 9) is more important than any of the stuff that we're doing right now. Same thing with the offseason, it's important. But I want to be ready for the games that count," Urlacher said.

"The good thing is we have two days off after the games, and then we practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If I have to go two days out of those days and have a day off before the game, (that will work). I'm sure we'll have to manage it. Plus I'm a little older now."

ESPN medical analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan, who has not treated Urlacher, believes a Week 1 return might be too lofty a goal.

"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 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."

Urlacher said he felt "relief" now in the left knee, but wasn't told the extent of what doctors found during the surgery, which he deemed "a very minor procedure" that went by "pretty quick from what I can gather." He admitted the fact he recently underwent his first knee procedure is somewhat of a concern, but at the same time, arthroscopic surgeries typically require just short periods of recovery.

"The scope is a one- to two-week recovery, so it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me," he said. "(It's) a little different, but if I'm gonna have something done, that's the thing to get done. I don't know (if there will still be pain in the knee). We'll have to see. There could be some, might not be any. I'm sure it's not gonna feel comfortable all season long. I don't think after the first game (that) anyone's healthy."

An eight-time Pro Bowler, Urlacher made a joke when asked if there was reason to believe he'd experience any more issues with the knee, saying: "I don't think there will be any issues ... unless there are. Then there will be. I don't think there will be."

Seemingly irritated by the repetitive line of questioning, Urlacher maintained his previous statements that his goal is to return by Sept. 9.

"September 9th, ask me another question and I'll tell you September 9th.That's my goal. That's what we're shooting for, and the whole time that's been our goal," Urlacher said. "You never want to get surgery.

" If you can avoid it, you want to. But this is like kind of the last resort to get it cleaned out, and get the swelling down."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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