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Urlacher still on track for opener after knee procedure

Although Brian Urlacher underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee Tuesday morning, the timetable for his return remains unchanged. The Bears are still confident that the star middle linebacker will be ready to start the Sept. 9 regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

"The treatment that we were giving Brian, the knee didn't respond as well as we wanted it to," said coach Lovie Smith. "So he had a minor scope. Everything came out the way we wanted it to. Brian had talked about definitely being ready for the regular season. We, of course, think that. We'll just see how it goes from here."

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Bears star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is expected to be ready to play in the season opener.

The procedure, which was performed by Bears doctors Gordon Nuber and Mark Bowen, was done to help relieve swelling in Urlacher's knee.

"He's been making progress," Smith said. "But we just wanted to put the knee in the best possible position it could possibly be in to get it right."

Urlacher's teammates know that he misses praticing with them as the Bears prepare for what promises to be an exciting season.

"He's a competitor and in his heart he wants to be out on the field playing football with the rest of us and it really tears at him that he can't do that right now," said fellow linebacker and close friend Lance Briggs.

"But it's a very long season. We have 16 games of getting to the playoffs in order to get ourselves into a position to play in the Super Bowl and win the thing. That's what we have to keep in perspective is what's most important."

Urlacher sat out the entire offseason program while recovering from a knee injury he suffered in last year's season finale in Minnesota. The eight-time Pro Bowler participated in the first four training camp practices but hasn't worked out with his teammates since July 31.

"I hate sitting out," Urlacher said Sunday. "I practiced the first four or five days and felt pretty good, and then it got sore and a little swollen, so I'm taking some time off right now."

Asked on Sunday about a timetable for his return, Urlacher said: "Sept. 9, I'll be ready to play for sure. That's really all that matters to me. Preseason games and all these practices, I'd love to be out there. But I'm not going to put myself in jeopardy of missing the first game."

That goal hasn't changed, even after the surgery. Asked about the possibility of Urlacher starting against the Colts, veteran linebacker Nick Roach said: "I don't have any doubt."

Roach has been filling in at middle linebacker in practice just as he did for three regular season games in 2009 after Urlacher had suffered a season-ending wrist injury in a Week 1 loss at Green Bay.

"Nick's done well; as good as anyone could do right now with Brian being out," Briggs said. "He's played the position before when Brian's gone down. He's very comfortable in the position. He gets us all aligned and playing well, and he's very stout and smart. He's a guy who's seasoned, so he knows where he needs to be." [

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With Roach moving inside, veteran free-agent acquisition Geno Hayes has been working with the No. 1 defense at strongside linebacker. Hayes signed with the Bears this year after spending his first four NFL seasons working in a similar system with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Geno's a playmaker," Briggs said. "I can't wait to see Geno on the field and what he brings to the table. He's very instinctive. He's a ballplayer, and that's the reason why he's running with the ones right now."

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