Perhaps an offseason spent on the sideline and a week's worth of missed training camp practices in Bourbonnais meant surgery for Brian Urlacher was always inevitable. But as the news hit Tuesday afternoon that the Chicago Bears' star linebacker had undergone what the team Twitter account called an "arthroscopic debridement procedure on the left knee", a jarring aftershock was still triggered around the city. Suddenly, the Bears' Super Bowl aspirations feel increasingly fragile.
The Bears boast a talented roster coming into the season, but they're far from the only team in their conference who can make that claim. Just in their own division, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions could easily win double-digit games. The NFC East has the reigning champion New York Giants and the exciting-as-all-get-out Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints and Falcons are tough in the South, the San Francisco 49ers are a trendy Super Bowl pick coming out to the West. The point: yeah, the Bears are good, but so are lots of other teams. The NFC could come down to whoever stays the healthiest. It isn't a comforting sign the longtime face of the franchise is already banged up to a significant degree just weeks before the season starts.
The Bears are saying Urlacher's goal remains unchanged: he wants to play Week 1 vs. the Indianapolis Colts. Is it feasible? Who knows. It certainly seems difficult to imagine Urlacher being out there at the height of his powers just three weeks after knee surgery, no matter how "non-invasive" the team claims the procedure was.
Urlacher suffered the injury during the Bears' Week 17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and did not participate in OTA workouts this offseason. He practiced in the beginning of training camp before his knee became sore and eventually sidelined him again.
As I noted after covering the Bears on Sunday in Bourbonnais: it's the only storyline at camp anyone cares about. For over a decade, the Bears have gone as far as Urlacher's taken them. This surgery is such a sobering blow.