Chicago Bears

Sick bay: Urlacher back at practicesort of

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Sick bay: Urlacher back at practicesort of

Brian Urlacher was back practicing in a helmet and pads on Friday for the first time since pulling a hamstring late in the Dec. 2 to loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Soldier Field. But his return to the middle linebacker spot this Sunday remains officially doubtful.

Urlacher sprinted away from questions with the requisite, Got to go get treatment, and that is still the case with an injury that has cost him three games already and has thrown his Chicago future under a cloud.

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He was able officially to practice on a limited basis, which is progress, said coach Lovie Smith. Were going to look at how he moved around Friday and see how he feels after today.

Urlacher and the Bears had hoped he would be able to take the field for what now is a make-or-break game against the Detroit Lions. But Urlacher did not take part in the light work on Wednesday or Thursday and although Smith said Urlacher is the level and type of player who would not need practice to be game-ready, a hamstring injury is susceptible to re-injury.

Running back Armando Allen remained out of practice with a knee injury and will not be ready for Detroit. Linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) and safety Chris Conte (hamstring) also did not practice again and will miss the Lions.

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But running back Matt Forte, who employed a multitude of treatments including acupuncture to heal his sprained ankle, is expected to be full go for the Lions.

Same with Jonathan Scott, back starting at right tackle after missing the Arizona game with a hamstring injury.

The Detroit Lions practiced on Friday without wide receiver Calvin Johnson, resting ankle and knee pains. Johnson will play Sunday in his quest to get the last 108 yards he needs to post the NFLs first 2,000-yard receiving season.

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was given a veterans day off from work and defensive tackle Sammie Hill (foot) did not practice.

But tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who has missed the last two games with an ankle sprain, was able to get some practice time, as was safety Louis Delmas (knee).

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

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USA Today Sports Images

Kevin White is starting small to answer the big question: Can he break out in 2017?

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Kevin White isn’t taking his ability to play football for granted anymore, not after missing 28 of the Bears’ 32 games since he was drafted seventh overall in 2015. This is supposed to be fun, White said, even though these last two years couldn’t have been much fun for him.  

So with training camp underway at Olivet Nazarene University, White isn’t putting any added pressure on himself in a year that could determine whether or not he gets labeled a bust. 

“I don’t look at this as a job,” White said. “I think it takes the fun away from it. So I would just look at it as it’s a game. I love to play it, just getting paid to do it. But it was fun to be back out there with the guys and rallying together and going out there to compete.”

White looked solid in the Bears’ first training camp practice of 2017, which was a promising start for the 6-foot-3, 216 pound West Virginia product. But that’s a small step that won’t hold much significance unless White can string a few good practices together, and then eventually turn those practices into productive games. 

The good news is the Bears don’t have any restrictions on White and aren’t planning on giving him any additional rest days during training camp.

“He’s ready to go,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “He’s had a great summer, a great offseason, so he’s ready to go. You can just feel his confidence gaining, knowledge of the offense and just being comfortable with his body. He’s pretty much unleashed.”

The bad news is until White proves he can play a full season, questions will remain about his durability. Since being drafted, White has dealt with a fractured left tibia and a severe ankle sprain that resulted in a spiral fracture of his fibula. Those two severe injuries mean we don’t really know what White can do — the four games he played last year were perhaps nothing more than an incomplete glimpse. 

White had the third-lowest average yards per target (5.19) among receivers with at least 35 targets last year, which couldn’t have been what the Bears envisioned when they invested a top-10 pick in him. This is a guy who had 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at West Virginia, after all. 

The Bears still believe White can be a go-to target opposite the budding Cam Meredith and in conjunction with the trio of veterans (Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz) they signed in the spring. 

“We all can do whatever the coaches put us in position to do,” White said. “I do have a lot of confidence (in) us.”

But from a larger view, the Bears need White succeed so they won’t have to re-draft a player at his position, or at least be tempted to deviate from their best-player-available strategy. Doing so would be a blow to Pace’s efforts to build through the draft, a process that’s also, notably, seen the additions of Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, Mitch Trubisky and Adam Shaheen on offense. 

For White to fulfill those big-picture hopes, though, he’ll have to start small — like with Thursday’s practice. Saturday’s practice will be the first time White will take contact since Week 4 of the 2016 season, and the Aug. 10 preseason opener will be his first game action since then, too. 

“It’s hard to get better at something if you don’t practice it,” coach John Fox said. “So getting a string of practices, getting him out there and developing his skill set. He’s got plenty of athletic ability. That’s why he was picked where he was. Now it’s just getting out there and improving (his) skillset.”

White’s love of the game wasn’t marred by the frustration of his first two years in Chicago, though. In fact, the opposite happened. 

“You get something taken away from you a little bit, you enjoy it more,” White said. 

'The world's against us': Bears plenty motivated to prove preseason expectations wrong

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USA TODAY

'The world's against us': Bears plenty motivated to prove preseason expectations wrong

BOURBONNAIS — There are 13 different teams on the Bears’ schedule this season. But as the Bears started training camp ahead of the 2017 campaign, they saw many more opponents.

“The world’s against us,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said Thursday.

Trevathan was referring to the almost universal lack of faith among preseason prognosticators when it comes to the Bears’ chances to make some noise this season.

The last three seasons have been miserable by the franchise’s historical standards, with last year’s 3-13 mark the worst the team ever posted in a 16-game season. So those doubting some sort of sudden turnaround have something to back their opinions up.

But down in Bourbonnais, the Bears are using that lack of confidence as a motivating tool.

“You want that mentality. You want it to be just us against the world. That’s how it is. It’s us,” Trevathan said. “A lot of people are going to say what they want to say, critics, all those guys are going to say you were 3-13, all this and that. But we know we can be way better than that. And we showed glimpses of that. But now we gotta go ahead and show it the whole season.”

Self confidence is never in short order for athletes, especially at the dawn of a new season when every team has the same record and there’s no new data to separate contenders from pretenders. But it’s not just the Bears pumping themselves up. They have a few reasons to believe that a flip of last year’s script is possible.

Health is a big one. Trevathan is one of a lengthy list of Bears returning from injuries that cut their seasons short in 2016. Impact guys like Kyle Long, Kevin White and Leonard Floyd missed significant time last season due to injuries. Their healthy return would figure make a big difference for the Bears this season.

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New additions are expected to make a huge difference, as well. The Bears will have a new quarterback, with Mike Glennon the likely starter to begin the season and No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings. Two new faces, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen, are earning plenty of attention in the battle for the starting tight end job. And Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Quintin Demps are a trio of new starters in the secondary.

Those guys, guys who weren’t a part of last year’s loss-a-palooza, are bringing a fresh perspective to the team.

“Last year is last year,” said Demps, who’s been to six postseasons in his career, including each of the last two with the Houston Texans. “You’ve got to come in each and every year and prove yourself. That’s the goal right now. We’re coming in with a clean slate, 0-0. We’re just trying to get better right now, trying to build a good team.”

But most importantly, the Bears see this season as the culmination of the cultural changes Ryan Pace, John Fox & Co. have put in place over the past few years.

“That change has been starting from two years ago, it’s been starting. It just hasn’t rolled over to the games,” tight end Zach Miller said. “3-13 is not acceptable for us. We put in all the work, and you can feel the change coming. Every year you walk into camp, everybody’s against you, it’s time to turn the tables, surprise some people, so that’s kind of the goal in mind right now and see how we can do it.”

“I saw spurts of us last year just blooming and being that four-quarter team to win games, close games,” Trevathan said, talking about the team and his defense, specifically. “A lot of people are not seeing the work that we’re putting in, the communication, pieces that we’re putting in, putting in work, guys coming in like they’ve been here before. It’s like we’re clicking on all cylinders right now, and it feels good to be part of a defense like that. I feel like we’re going to be one of the greatest coming up. As long as we keep that full steam ahead, that attitude, that hungriness and that drive, we’re going to be great.”

Never underestimate the power of bulletin-board material, something that’s been around almost as long as football has. There's enough of it floating around this preseason for the Bears to fill a few bulletin boards. As they said, it’s up to them to prove they’re better than everyone thinks, better than last year’s 13-loss season indicated.

But while 2016 was short on wins, one thing 2017 will not be short on is motivation.

“A lot of people have got their backs turned to us. And we’re going to come out swinging. They’re gonna come over to our side,” Trevathan said. “But right now we’re taking care of our business. Our thing is to get better and get better every day, and that’s our goal.”