Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to Halas Hall on Thursday after leaving the team to spent time with his family after the sudden death of his mother, Lavoyda Urlacher, on Monday. He is expected to play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Even after Urlacher left to grieve with his family, it was expected that he would play against the Saints. But teammates were surprised to see him back so quickly.
''Brian's a warrior,'' defensive tackle Henry Melton said Thursday. ''I don't even know how I would handle that kind of loss. I reach out to him. It's a tough situation. He's amazing to be back [after two days].''
Linebacker Lance Briggs, a close friend of Urlacher's, was reticent to discuss Urlacher's situation when he met with reporters Thursday at Halas Hall.
''I'm just glad he's back. It's a tough situation. That's all,'' Briggs said.
Asked about his reaction to Urlacher's quick return, Briggs seemed to best reflect the general mood. ''Like I said, I'm just glad he's back,'' Briggs said. ''That's a very tough situation. Im just happy to see him back.''
Urlacher did not speak with the media prior to practice Wednesday. And probably won't for the rest of the week. But nobody doubts he'll be ready to play. In fact, many are expecting the football-driven Urlacher to respond much like Brett Favre did so dramatically after the loss of his father in 2003. Favre threw four touchdown passes in the first half and was 22-of-30 for 399 yards and a 154.9 passer rating in a 41-7 rout of the Oakland Raiders.
''I think he's going to have one of the best games of his career,'' defensive end Corey Wootton said. ''It's a tragic loss [for] him and his family. But we're glad to have him back. He's definitely going to be playing this one for his mom.''
The return of Urlacher, a captain and the unquestioned leader of the team, figures to be a boost for the entire team as it prepares to face the Saints at the Superdome.
''It was kind of dead yesterday without him here,'' Melton said. ''It just really shows how much he really means to us.''