Injuries to Brian Urlacher the past two season has made it easier to appreciate Hunter Hillenmeyer.
Hillenmeyer filled in for Urlacher when Urlacher sustained a season-ending wrist injury in the 2009 season opener. He stepped in for Urlacher again and finished with a team-high seven combined tackles when the Pro Bowl middle linebacker strained his calf against the Raiders last week. Now that coach Lovie Smith has officially ruled Urlacher out of Saturday night's third preseason game, Hillenmeyer will get another start when the Cardinals visit Soldier Field.
"When I first had to adjust to a backup role, when Nick [Roach] and I started splitting time two years ago, that's when I was the most upset and frustrated and feeling like I was getting taken advantage of by the system," Hillenmeyer said. "At this point, I've been through such a roller coaster ride of starting and backing up and special teams --- injured, healthy --- it's all details to me.
"I love playing. Obviously, I want to play defense, which shouldn't surprise anybody.
Anybody here is competitive enough where they want to start and they want to contribute. I'm going to play my best and do the best I can whatever my role is. I don't feel like I'm just saying that, either."
While Hillenmeyer could start for many NFL teams, he said he's part of something special in Chicago.
"It's frustrating not to start but it's fun to be part of what I consider to be the best linebacking corps in the league," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to lead to something that we'll all be a big part of, and that will be fun, even if I'm not one of the guys out there starting."