BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Because the Bears are no longer giving veterans days off Julius Peppers sat by, in uniform, during much of Saturday and Sunday practices the absence of linebacker Brian Urlacher from practice Wednesday was cause for at least a little concern.
Urlacher suffered a left-knee injury in game 16 last season and has rehabbed much of the offseason, then taking a full workload from the outset of training camp. Consider it a longshot for him to miss days when they matter: Urlacher has played all 16 games in 11 of his 13 seasons, missing time only in 2004 (hamstring) and 2009 (wrist).
Wide receiver Eric Weems, having a strong camp after making strides during OTAs, also was sidelined Wednesday.
Weve got a couple bumps and bruises going on right now, coach Lovie Smith said. Brian Urlacher, knee was a little sore today, so we kept him out, and a few other guys, but we should be OK.
In place of Urlacher, veteran strong-side linebacker Nick Roach moved into Urlachers spot while Geno Hayes, acquired last offseason after three years as a starter with Tampa Bay, made his first appearance with the 1s in Roachs spot.
Roach started three games at middle linebacker in 2009 after Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the first half of the opener at Green Bay.
Each year the NFL sends a crew of officials to each training camp to acquaint players with rules changes and to simulate game calls under those rules.
Officials were working Bears practice on Wednesday. But they were some of the replacement officials brought in by the league in case negotiations with the regular officials breaks down completely. So for officials in Bourbonnais on Wednesday, this was to acquaint them with the NFL game, even at a camp level.
We've had some discussions and there may be some more in the next couple of days; hopefully there will be, said NFL Chairman Roger Goodell, making a stop to meet with Bears officials and meet with fans in a forum with Bears Chairman George McCaskey. We'd like to get it resolved, but we're preparing, and we have been for the past couple of months, to get replacement officials on the field, and we're confident that they could do the job.
But we want to overall improve officiating. And we've got some ideas on how to do that. Clearly there are economic differences, but we're thinking about expanding the number of officials rosters from 121 to 142 to bring in three more crews that we can use to try and help develop younger officials, improve the quality, and maybe be able to move them in and out.
Call it a near-miss.
Defensive end Israel Idonije forced a turnover on Wednesday but not the way the Bears want, at least not just yet.
Idonije bore down on quarterback Jay Cutler and inadvertently hit Cutlers hand as the quarterback was releasing a pass. The ball fluttered up in the air and was grabbed by defensive tackle Henry Melton, who carried it 10 yards for the first camp TD for the defensive line.
It was a turnover and score, however, that no member of the defense particularly celebrated. No one is permitted to hit the franchise quarterback. Period.