Smith: Urlacher 'on pace' to return

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher seemed to ease concerns about his availability for training camp on Tuesday at mandatory veteran minicamp with what appeared to be a promising workout with Bobby Slater, the team’s director of rehabilitation.

The club held Urlacher out of practice, but he ran sprints, and performed a few drills that involved backpedaling, and the linebacker -- wearing a small brace on his left knee -- appeared to be near 100 percent.

“He’s not ready to go yet,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s on pace. Our plan was to take it slow with him.”

Urlacher suffered the left knee injury, which sprained his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments, during a collision with safety Major Wright, as the two converged to break up a pass in the end zone during the team’s 2011 season finale.

Having eclipsed 100 tackles a franchise-record 11 times, Urlacher enters the final season of his contract set to earn a $7.5 million base salary. The team hasn't approached Urlacher about possibly restructuring his deal and the sides haven't yet discussed an extension, he said.

Despite Urlacher's age (33), the linebacker remains highly productive, and club officials continue to express confidence in his ability to remain so.

“We know what Brian can do. It’s not like he’s gonna tell us an awful lot out there,” Smith said. “He’s right on pace. So he should be able to get a good rest (during the) rest of his offseason, and he should be good for training camp.”