Coach Lovie Smith said after Tuesday’s practice at Olivet Nazarene University that Urlacher was excused for a second day for personal reasons. He’s now missed six consecutive practices and will not play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Broncos at Soldier Field.
Urlacher has not been on the field since July 31 and the soonest he will be able to practice is Saturday because the team has only a walk-through Wednesday in advance of the game.
But Smith said Sunday the club is going to take its time with Urlacher, leaving it open-ended as to when he will return. But he showed no panic about the situation that centers on the defensive leader’s sore left knee.
“Brian will be our mike linebacker and all kinds of other things out there,” Smith said.
Nick Roach will start in his place and that creates an opportunity for Geno Hayes to get work with the first team at strong-side linebacker. Roach has some experience in the middle from 2009.
“He's smart, really athletic, great in space, good coverage skills,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “We like Nick.”
Questions about Urlacher will continue until there is clarity on his situation. Smith said he expected Urlacher to need some time in camp but no one expected it to be an extended stretch.
NOTE: Devin Hester missed practice with an illness but he could fill a return role against the Broncos. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Hester will be put in preseason games to simulate catching the ball. Toub will instruct him to fair catch. The Bears are working on Hester improving catching short punts that sometimes take long rolls and back the offense up.
“What he was getting is teams were trying to kick the rugby kick short and have it hit the ground where there was a chance it would hit us or roll,” Toub said. “We want him to go up and fair catch those balls. Fair catch it. We’ll get out of your way but catch it.”