Bears LB Urlacher practices, but doubtful to play

Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has returned to practice.

With two days to go before the regular-season finale at Detroit, Urlacher was limited during Friday’s practice in the Walter Payton Center. It is the first time Urlacher has participated in practice since he left the overtime loss to the Seahawks on Dec. 2 with a pulled hamstring.

The Bears will list Urlacher as doubtful for the game, according to a team spokesman, and chances are he was brought back to the field with an eye toward having him ready for a wild-card round playoff game next weekend.

“The normal progress we hoped he would make he has made,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Brian doesn’t have to necessarily practice a full practice before we would play him, but we’re not to that point. We’re just going to look at how he moved around and see how he feels after today.

“It’s not like he went full speed. You just have to see if you think he’s ready to go when you’re coming off of a muscle injury. That’s how it goes. There’s no ideal time. But I wouldn’t take off too far on the Brian Urlacher talk. All we can tell you is that he had a limited practice today, which is progress for us, no more than that.”

The Bears typically want players who have missed significant time with muscle pulls to practice for more than a week before they return to action. Now, the team can evaluate how Urlacher responds to the work over the course of the weekend and early next week provided the playoffs are ahead.

“Of course he wants to be out there,” weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs said. “He never wants to be off the field. He always wants to be out there. When it gets to situations like that, it’s not our call. I know where his heart is. I know where he wants to be. “

While Sunday’s game against the Lions is a must-win contest, coach Lovie Smith has professed confidence in replacement Nick Roach and Urlacher’s stamina cannot be where it is needed. No one has definitively ruled him out of the game, though.

Roach was credited with 14 tackles in the win last week at Arizona and he’s made 32 tackles in three games taking Urlacher’s place.

Running back Matt Forte, with his right ankle heavily taped, practiced again after returning to the field on Thursday. He is expected to start on Sunday.

The Bears are also expected to be without starting free safety Chris Conte (hamstring), linebacker and special teams ace Blake Costanzo (calf). Both will be listed as out. Running back Armando Allen (knee) did not practice and he will be questionable.

By Brad Biggs, Tribune Reporter

Copyright © 2012 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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