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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 03: Chicago Bears, Brian Urlacher is interviewed as Nike debuts their new NFL uniforms on April 3, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Nike)
Brian Urlacher missed his second straight practice Tuesday with what the Bears are excusing "for personal reasons."
That's six consecutive practices Urlacher has missed the past week. Four were blamed on his sore knee.
"I know a lot of you asking about Brian Urlacher," Coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. "He’s been excused again for personal reasons."
Bears coaches tried their best to downplay their middle linebacker's absence, but the drop-off without number 54 is worrisome.
"He’s a Hall Of Famer, so when he’s not here there’s a drop off to the next level," linebackers Coach Bob Babich said. "But we feel Nick Roach plays pretty good football so we feel good about it."
Roach entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern, and in his sixth season has worked his way into the starting lineup at strong side linebacker. He moves over to the middle while Urlacher is out, but doesn't feel he has to be Brian Urlacher.
"No," Roach said, shaking his head. "No one can be."
Is Roach being groomed for a permanent move in the future?
"We don’t look that far ahead," Babich explained. "But Nick is a very good player."
Smith isn't worried. At least, he's not showing that he is.
"We like our depth. Nick Roach is our backup MLB. He had an outstanding day yesterday. He’s played good football for us around here," the coach said.
Roach returned after signing a one year contract signed this offseason. He is the only backup middle linebacker to Urlacher on the Bears roster. Second year player Dom diCicco switched from defensive back in college at Pitt to Linebacker as a rookie last year, and has only played special teams on Sunday.
Babich warned about looking too far ahead, as the Bears coaches aren't.
"Guys I’m not thinking about a replacement for Urlacher, we’re taking it one day at a time," he said.