We get to see so little of Bears practice once they return from Bourbonnais -- even the usual 10-minute segments are down to less than five this year -- that by nature we overanalyze little things. In fact, sometimes we spend more time trying to figure out if what we saw was what we saw or what Lovie Smith wanted us to see than we actually spend watching "practice."
So take it for what it's worth that linebacker Brian Urlacher was very purposefully taking "mental reps" while the Bears were doing preliminary work in position groups in practice on Tuesday. That is, while the linebackers were lineup and responding to snaps, Urlacher was a few yards behind the "starting" group simulating the same response -- getting in pre-snap position then taking a step or two at the ''snap.''
That's not much, but it's more than we've seen him do since July 31. And he looked great doing it! Then again, the Bears are so paranoid about injuries, there's no telling what the purpose of that might have been.
The upshot of the matter is that it at least plausibly substantiates Lovie Smith's contention that Urlacher will practice next week in preparation for the season opener against the Colts on Sept. 9 at Soldier Field -- a stance Smith reiterated when asked about Urlacher again Tuesday.
''Brian is making a lot of progress,'' Smith said. ''It's kind of set up that way, so you guys don't see a lot. He's making progress, I will let you know that about him. I expect to see No. 54 out on the field next week in practice and playing against the Colts.''
The bigger issue, of course, is not so much whether Urlacher will play against the Colts, but whether he'll play against the Packers four days later at Lambeau Field. We'll ask Brian that if he speaks publicly next week, and I can tell you right now he has no concerns about it.
They never do. Years ago I thought Shane Matthews was returning from a hamstring injury too soon -- three weeks after suffering the injury -- but he was resolute. 'I'm not 100 percent, but I feel like I'm well enough to get the job done,'' Matthews said before facing the Redskins in 1999.
Matthews played and -- predictably -- aggravated the hamstring early in the game in a 48-22 loss.
All injuries are different, but based on previous experience, the Urlacher return will deserve every bit of scrutiny it has gotten and will get next week. The Bears' dubious record on serious injuries over the last several years leaves them no room to tell us not to worry.