NFC NORTH

NFC North: Bears see return of their defensive leader; Lions still waiting for theirs

Posted Sep 4, 2012

Pro Bowl LB Brian Urlacher returned to the practice field for the Bears on Monday as the Lions continue to wait for the return of S Louis Delmas.

The Bears received great news Monday when eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to the practice field for the first time in over a month after undergoing multiple procedures on his ailing left knee.

There’s little argument that Urlacher is the heart and soul and indisputable leader of the Bears defense, which doesn’t look nearly the same without the former NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The Lions are still waiting for a bit of good news regarding the return of their heart and soul on defense. Like Urlacher, Lions safety Louis Delmas has missed the last month with knee injury. The Lions defense, similarly, isn’t the same without No. 26 roaming its secondary.

When Delmas was lost for the last five games of the regular season last year, the defense allowed an average of 128 more passing yards and 122 more total yards per game in those five contests.

Urlacher’s age and the severity of his knee problems vs. those of Delmas make the two cases a bit different, but they’re similar in how important both players will be to their respective teams come Sunday’s start to the regular season.

Urlacher returned to the practice field on Monday. Delmas has yet to return.

"He had a good first day back," Bears head coach Lovie Smith told Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago on Monday. "He's got to get in shape, I'm sure he'll tell you that. But we didn't have any trouble with him today so he's right back on schedule."

"He did everything we asked him to do. He was one of the guys. You forgot that he's been out. When we're playing No. 54 has been out there for so long, today it was just back to the normal routine as much as anything."

Urlacher told WFLD-Channel 32's "The Final Word" that his left knee would never be the same again, but there was no way he wasn’t playing against the Colts on Sunday.

"I'm playing Sunday," Urlacher said via the team website. "That's a done deal."

The severity of Delmas’ injury is unknown but he appears to be closer to returning to the field. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said last week that Delmas would have to return to practice at some point this week if he hoped to play against the Rams on Sunday.

The Lions and Bears are expected to compete with the Packers for both the NFC North Division title and a playoff spot – making Delmas’ return even more crucial.

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