EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has played many games at the Metrodome during his 13-year career as the leader of Chicago’s defense, but he will likely miss this week’s with his team looking to continue its playoff push in Minnesota.
Urlacher, who suffered a knee injury in the final game last season against the Vikings, sustained a pulled hamstring on the second-to-last play of Chicago’s 23-17 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
On a Wednesday conference call with Vikings reporters, Bears coach Lovie Smith would confirm only that Urlacher would miss that day’s practice because of a hamstring pull. Smith also refused to speculate on a timeframe for recovery.
“Of course, he’s not practicing today,” Smith said. “With the hamstring, you never know when a guy is coming back and what he will be able to do. I just know that Brian is a quick healer, not like most people.”
The Chicago Tribune cited sources saying Urlacher’s injury is a Grade 2 hamstring strain. Urlacher told the FOX news affiliate in Chicago on Tuesday that he could miss the rest of the regular season.
“Doctors say two to four weeks, three, could be four. Just depends on how it heals,” Urlacher told the FOX TV station.
Urlacher, the longtime face of the team, likely will miss Sunday’s game at Minnesota (6-6), but he could return if the Bears (8-4) make the playoffs. After playing the Vikings, Chicago will finish the season with a home game against the Green Bay Packers and road games at Arizona and Detroit.
Because of their loss to Green Bay (8-4) earlier this season, the Bears don’t have the tiebreaker in the NFC North. They do, however, occupy one of the wild-card spots.
Urlacher, who has made the third-most starts in team history and is in the final year of his contract, is second on the Bears with 68 tackles. He leads the team in tackles for loss with eight and has one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Linebacker Nick Roach is expected to slide inside and start in Urlacher’s place on Sunday, with Geno Hayes playing the strong-side linebacker spot.
“You know what you’re going to get out of Brian,” quarterback Jay Cutler said of Urlacher. “He gets that defense … everything kind of runs through him. He gets them lined up. He makes the checks.
“It’s a tough loss, it is. I think everyone is aware of that. But that defense has been together for a long time and they have some guys that know it just as well as Brian does, so they’ve got to step up for us.”
An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro, Urlacher rehabbed this offseason after suffering sprained medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments during last season’s finale in Minnesota. Entering 2012, he had missed only 22 games in his 13-year career. He missed seven games in 2004 with a hamstring injury and was out 15 games in 2009 with a wrist injury.
The Bears are 7-15 without Urlacher since he was chosen in the first round of the 2000 draft.
“He’s an excellent player and has been a leader for their defense for a while,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ll see what kind of effect it has. You would think that it would have an effect for sure because of the impact that he’s had as a player. So unfortunate for him. You don’t like to see a player get injured. But we’ll see how it impacts their defense. They’ve got a lot of other good players on that defense, and I’m sure their backups are quality guys as well.”