Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice for the first time in nearly a month on Friday but is not expected to play in Sunday’s must-win game at Detroit.
Urlacher is doubtful to face the Lions with a pulled hamstring that he suffered at the end of the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 2 at Soldier Field. But the plan is to see if the 34-year-old captain will be ready in time to play next weekend in a wild-card playoff game if the Bears can earn the sixth seed in the NFC. The Bears must defeat the Lions and have the Green Bay Packers win at Minnesota to reach the postseason.
“I was encouraged he was finally able to get on the practice field, and it's not like we had a full padded practice," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But he was able to move around. 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.
"I wouldn't take off too far on the Brian Urlacher talk. He had a limited practice, he hasn't done anything and today he was able to do a little bit. I can't give you much more than that."
It is possible Urlacher has played his final game for the Bears after 13 seasons and 182 games. He is out of contract after this season and there is no guarantee at this point the club will bring him back. Knee issues affected his range this season. But teammates are not considering that possibility.
"No," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "My job right now is to focus on beating the Detroit Lions. That's what all of our jobs are right now. We need to focus on trying to get ourselves into the postseason."
Meanwhile, running back Matt Forte is probable for the game with a sprained right ankle. He was knocked out of the third quarter of last Sunday’s victory at Arizona, the third time he has injured the ankle this season. Forte uses acupuncture-type treatment and said he had needles inserted into his ankle and Achilles tendon to aid in the healing process.
“I've done this stuff before, acupuncture, chiropractic stuff, soft-tissue work, hyperbaric chamber, same stuff," Forte said. "It seems to work better. Since I sprained it the first time, it's gotten all the way healed, so it's not a lot more damaged than the first time.
"I know it is going to be painful, especially when you get tackled and hit on. It will be just like the Dallas game when I got hit on the first play and I had to get retaped."
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune