Thursday, September 15, 2011
Updated: September 16, 3:07 PM ET
Brian Urlacher expected to face Saints
By Jeff Dickerson
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to Halas Hall and practiced on Thursday after leaving the team to be with family members as they mourned the death of his mother, Lavoyda Lenard.
Coach Lovie Smith said Urlacher is excited to face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Urlacher wasn't immediately available for comment.
"It was good to get him back today," Smith said. "Sometimes when you're going through tough times like he is right now, you want to get back with your support group, which is here with his teammates.
"It was good to get him back, see his face, and show some support that way. Football is pretty important to him. So I know he's excited about playing the game this Sunday."
Private services for Lenard will be held on Saturday in New Mexico. Bears chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips, general manager Jerry Angelo, Smith, linebackers coach Bob Babich and linebacker Lance Briggs will represent the Bears.
Urlacher's teammates were excited to have the team leader back on the field.
"It's good to see him back," defensive end Corey Wootton said. "It was a tragic loss on his part, his family, but we're glad to have him back.
"I think he's definitely going to be playing this one for his mom. I think he is going to have one of the best games of his career."
Wootton said Urlacher's demeanor was business-like.
"He definitely seemed focused on the task at hand, but I'm sure in the back of his mind there are some thoughts about his mother," Wootton said.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said the Saints are preparing to face Urlacher.
"First of all, my condolences go out to him and his whole family," Brees said. "I know that's a tough thing to have to go through, especially during the season.
"We're preparing for him today regardless of what the reports may say during the week. You have to prepare as if he's gonna play or they're all gonna play. If they don't, then we change gears."
Brees empathized with Urlacher after losing his mother in 2009.
"It was a sudden thing," Brees said. "So [it was] very unexpected.
"I left training camp immediately to be with my brother and my family. I can tell you this: I know for me, as hard as that was, and as much as I needed to be with my family at that time, a big part of my healing was coming back and being with the guys in the locker room, and getting back to playing football."
Urlacher, 33, has played all 13 of his NFL seasons in Chicago and is widely considered one of the team's emotional leaders in the locker room.
Since 2008, the Bears are 21-13 with Urlacher in the lineup and 7-8 without him.
Lenard died in her home outside of Mount Pleasant, Texas, on Tuesday. She was 51. Lt. Brent Smith of the Titus County (Texas) Sheriff's Office said there was no evidence of foul play.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.