Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher told Fox-32's Lou Canellis his knee ''will never be the same,'' but vowed to play in the Bears' regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Urlacher has not practiced since July 31 -- missing all four of the Bears' preseason games -- because of soreness in the left knee he injured in Week 17 of last season. He missed most of the offseason program and was only able to participate in three practices before the knee flared up on him.
He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 14. But he and coach Lovie Smith have always maintained that Urlacher will play against the Colts.
''It feels much better now,'' Urlacher told Canellis on Fox's Sunday night ''Final Word'' program. ''I've been running around quite a bit -- not with the team in practice. I've been taking it real slow like coach Smith said we would.
''There are going to be some restrictions on what I can do because they don't want to overwork me too early. It's a long season. There will be some restrictions but there won't be restrictions in the game on Sunday. I'm playing Sunday. That's a done deal.''
Though Urlacher is coming off a long layoff, the issue isn't so much about playing against the Colts, but playing against the Packers four days later in a nationally televised game on the NFL Network -- and then 14 more games in the following 15 weeks.
After taking most of the summer off, he lasted just two padded practices before he aggravated the injury. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago -- even if it was ''a little minor surgery,'' as Urlacher told Canellis -- it stands to reason that the wear-and-tear of two NFL games in a five-day span might possibly be a problem. But Urlacher says he'll play in both games.
''I don't see why [not],'' he told Canellis. ''We have a day off Monday [after the Colts game] and our practices before that game will be quick anywa. We already know what our game plan in, I think, because we play Green Bay twice a year. There shouldn't be a whole lot of game-planning going on.''
Urlacher is a noted quick healer -- not quite Jordanesque, but better than most. When he suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp in 2004, he returned for the season opener against the Detroit Lions after missing most of training camp and preseason. But he also played in only nine games that season and never played more than five consecutive games because of injuries and finished the season on injured reserve. He aggravated the hamstring injury twice and also had a calf injury that season.
That's when he was 26 and in the prime of his career. Now he's 34 and not in the prime of his career. Even he knows that.
''This is the last year of my [contract]. Whatever happens, happens. I'm going to play the best I can this year and hopefully I can stay healthy, play 16 games and then whatever we have in the playoffs.
''I'm not going to sit here and say, 'I want to play four more years,' because before my knee was hurt I thought I could play four more. My knee just isn't the same anymore. It's never going to be the same.''