Reading the tea leaves on Brian Urlacher

INDIANAPOLIS -- At this time of the NFL offseason, tea leaves are all we've got. Few teams are saying anything definitive about their roster plans. Those that do fall under heavy suspicion of telling competitive white lies.

So goes our limited environment for assessing the future of Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. During interviews Thursday, general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman left few clues about their plans for a player who has spent the past decade as the face of the franchise. I can't say I understand the Bears' reluctance to provide clarity, other than as part of a larger strategy to keep all business in-house, but it's not the first time I haven't been able to think along with one of our teams.

Here's what we can say: There is at least some internal interest in bringing back Urlacher for 2013.

I base that judgment on Emery's statement Thursday that "we'll work through Brian and his agents on" his future. If the decision had been made to move on -- one that would be entirely justifiable, by the way -- I'm guessing Emery would have said so by this point. The only benefit for stringing along a franchise icon would be to hide the interest in potential replacements, be it in free agency or the draft.

But Emery also made clear that he won't treat Urlacher as a typical and interchangeable commodity. "He'll never be slighted," Emery said. "I have too much respect for him."

If that's the case, we're left to believe that the Bears will engage Urlacher in some level of discussion about his return. It's quite possible that those discussions could ultimately lead to a decision to part ways, but based on what we know at this point, it doesn't appear the Bears have decided unilaterally do that. We could be weeks away from a final answer on that.