The Brian Urlacher situation remains extremely fluid at Bears training camp. Urlacher and the Bears either don't know what's wrong with his left knee or don't want to say.
Either way, it's a problem, as Lovie Smith's dismissive responses earlier in the week (''Brian is going to be our Mike linebacker this season'') have given way to virtual silence (''Knee is sore. He's been out for personal reasons. That's all we're going to talk on the subject,'' Smith said Saturday).
No longer are we hearing that there's nothing to worry about. Not that anybody was heeding Smith's contention that we were making too much of Urlacher's absence. Last Sunday, Nick Roach said, ''Brian will be fine. He's the last guy you have to worry about being ready to play.'' Two days later he told Bears sideline reporter Zach Zaidman, ''Like everybody else, I'm hoping and praying that he's healthy enough to come back.'' That seemed like an early indication there was something to worry about.
There are still four weeks before the Bears open the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts at Soldier Field on Sept. 9. But the issue with Urlacher isn't whether he'll be ready for that game. He might be. The issue is how he'll hold up once the season begins. If Urlacher's knee is sore enough for him to miss two weeks after three padded practices, how is it going to feel after playing two regular-season games in a five-day span to start the regular season (the Colts on Sept. 9, the Packers on Sept. 13)? Or the 14 games in 15 weeks after that?
Far be it from the Bears to think outside the box, but they might want to consider taking a "Derrick Rose approach" to Urlacher's injury and not let the nine-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker return until Oct. 22 against the Lions.
The schedule appears to allow for it. In the first five weeks of the season (Colts-Packers-Rams-Cowboys-Jaguars), the Bears play three teams that ranked in the bottom three of the NFL in offense last year -- the Colts (30th), Rams (31st) and Jaguars (32nd). Then they have a bye before playing the Lions at home on Monday Night Football. That would give Urlacher 10 more weeks to heal his left knee.
If that's too radical, the Bears could try a compromise strategy and play Urlacher against the Packers on Sept. 13 and the Cowboys on Oct. 1 -- both prime-time games, for whatever that's worth -- and rest him against the others.
That would allow the Bears to keep Urlacher in game shape without the usual wear-and-tear, develop an Urlacher replacement and -- this is the best part -- still win games. Unless the Colts, Rams and Jaguars make quantum leaps on offense this season, the Bears should not need Urlacher to beat any of them.
Is that possible? Would it work? Who knows? But the way the Urlacher saga is transpiring, it doesn't sound like the Bears have any better ideas.