Will Urlacher be ready for Bears' opening day?


Will Urlacher be ready for Bears' opening day?

From Comcast SportsNet
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and still hopes to be ready for the season opener. The Bears said that Urlacher had an arthroscopic procedure on Tuesday morning to help relieve swelling in the knee and was back at training camp by 10 a.m. He missed the offseason training program after spraining the medial collateral ligament and partially spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in the final game last season against Minnesota. "The treatment that we were giving Brian, he didn't respond as well as we wanted it to," coach Lovie Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "So we had it scoped this morning, a minor scope on his knee. Everything came out the way that we wanted it to." Urlacher was ready for the start of camp, but has not practiced since July 31 and was away from the team recently for what were described as personal reasons. Even so, he said Sunday that he expects to be ready for the opener against Indianapolis on Sept. 9. Urlacher told WFLD Fox-32 in Chicago on Monday that he didn't know if he could have the surgery and return in two weeks. "I am just going to keep resting right now," he said. "I have never had a scope. I don't know how that stuff works. This is the first time I have ever done anything to my knee so I am kind of new to this. I don't know. Honestly, I don't know how that works." Urlacher acknowledged that the knee could be an issue all season, adding, "I don't see it getting any better during the season. We have to manage it, my reps in practice, and then get through Sunday." The Bears had all offseason to address the injury in a different way, but Smith said there was no indication he needed surgery until recently when Urlacher began have problems. "We followed protocol in what we thought we should do at the time," he said. "And now that we're here going back to last season doesn't help an awful lot. "Right now Brian got the knee scoped. He's feeling really good about that. Again that's about all you can do right now to put the knee in the best possible position to be ready for the first game." This is an important season for Urlacher, a 13-year veteran and mainstay for the Chicago defense. He has an expiring contract and is prepared to enter free agency, although he would like to remain with the Bears. Without Urlacher, Nick Roach has moved over from strong side linebacker to the middle and Geno Hayes is playing strong side. Roach had to play the position in 2009 for three games after Urlacher suffered a season-ending dislocated wrist in the opener. Defensive players called the latest surgery a minor setback. "It's a very long season," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We have 16 games of getting to the playoffs in order to get ourselves into a position to play in the Super Bowl, to win the thing. That's what we have to keep in perspective." He noted that Urlacher was back at camp: "He's a competitor and in his heart, he wants to be out on the field playing football with the rest of us, and it really tears at him that he can't do that right now."

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.