The good news Saturday was that linebacker Brian Urlacher re-joined the Chicago Bears. The neutral news is that neither Urlacher nor the team cleared up why he left the team for three days last week other than to say it was for personal reasons. The bad news is that he once again missed practice because of a sore knee, his seventh consecutive, and coach Lovie Smith said he did not know when Urlacher will return.
Here's what Smith told reporters about Urlacher: "Knee is sore and he's been gone for personal reasons. That's all we're really going to talk about on the subject."
Urlacher declined comment to reporters after practice.
Many of us prefer the simplest explanations to all unanswered questions. Often, they are the right ones. In Urlacher's case, it would go something like this:
He began experiencing soreness in a knee he injured and spent a long time rehabilitating during the offseason. He is 34, knows the defense as well as anyone on the team and doesn't need practice reps or preseason appearances. The Bears are taking it slow because they can, and in the end this is the best way to prepare him for the rigors of a 16-game season.
In the midst of that approach, a personal issue arose that Urlacher needed to attend to. He did and it's now taken care of. End of story.
It's quite possible that's what has happened. But I also understand why some of you aren't willing to accept that explanation. NFL teams are notoriously secretive about injuries, and during training camp they are under no obligation to provide any information under league rules. Urlacher's knee was originally injured more than seven months ago. That's a long time to still feel soreness. Is it reasonable to think that a week or more of rest in August will get Urlacher to a place that seven months of offseason rehabilitation did not? Or is the injury more serious than the Bears have let on?
Soon enough, we'll know if those questions are relevant.