If Brian Urlacher gets injured, are the Bears really going to turn to ... Dom DeCicco?
Probably not. But DeCicco, an undrafted rookie from Pittsburgh, is listed as the No. 2 middle linebacker on the Bears' depth chart as they open the exhibition schedule a 7 p.m. tonight against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.
That tells you just how thin the Bears are at linebacker behind starters Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach. Of the seven backup linebackers currently active, five of them are rookies and only Brian Iwuh has played in the NFL. And he's been primarily a special-teams contributor, with four NFL starts at linebacker.
Asked earlier this week if he was concerned about depth at linebacker, Briggs told it like it was: ''If we stay healthy, no,'' he said. ''If guys start going down, you're going to have to be concerned.''
Currently, Iwuh is backing up Briggs at weak side linebacker and Thomas, a sixth-round draft pick from West Virginia, is backing up Roach at strong side linebacker.
DeCicco, played mostly strong safety in college and is converting to middle linebacker with the Bears. That's about the only thing he has in common with Urlacher. A seven-time Pro Bowl player.
The 6-4, 230-pound DeCicco, who played for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt, is a long shot to make the team. But he appears to have at least made the right move after going undrafted when he signed with the Bears. He figures to get a pretty good opportunity in the preseason as the No. 2 middle linebacker on the depth chart. And he's learning from the best.
''It's a privilege and an honor to learn from him and watch him every day and try to pick his brain and lear from one of the best to ever play,'' said DeCicco, who also was contacted by the Steelers, Saints and Bills after the draft.
Like Urlacher, DeCicco is a versatile athlete. He played safety, wide reciver and quarterback in high school. He also excelled on Pitt's punt return team that ranked sixth in the country last year.
Tonight's game will give him an opportunity to reunite with Wannstedt, the former Bears head coach who is a linebackers coach with the Bills. DeCicco reveres Wannstedt -- when Wanny was fired at Pitt with one game to go last year, he vowed to not play in the Panthers' bowl game in protest before reconsidering.
''He's like a father to us,'' DeCicco said at the time. ''He taught you so much. Not just about football, but about being a man, about being accountable, discipline. That's the way he is.''
Urlacher, he said, has been very patient with the rookie linebackers in training camp.
''To be honest, he's really down to earth. He's one of the nicest guys on the team,'' DeCicco said. ''He's more than willing to help us out if we ask him a question. He's just one of the easiest-going guys, you really can't say enough good things about him. He's always trying to help and do whatever it takes to help us.
The best advice he's received from Urlacher?
''Be patient. Take very day as a new day,'' he said.