By Laurence Holmes-

BOURBONNAIS (CBS) It’s a good thing that Brian Urlacher knows every detail of this defense. Because if he didn’t, missing his fourth straight practice on Sunday might be more of a concern.

The Bears middle linebacker continues to get time off during training camp. Remember, Urlacher hurt his knee in the season finale against Minnesota. Throughout OTAs and mini-camp, Urlacher and the Bears insisted that he will be ready for the beginning of the season.

“His knee is still a little sore. He has some soreness with it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get him back out here before long. But we’ll take our time with Brian.” Lovie Smith said.

The move to give extra time to players nursing injuries isn’t unprecedented. Smith has made it routine for players to receive “veteran days off”. Usually, this is one or two practices. With Urlahcer missing so much time, it lends credence to the idea that the MCL injury suffered against the Vikings was more serious than most believed.

“There is always concern when you have an injury at the end of the year and you miss some time in the offseason, but he should be OK,” Smith said. “It’s not like he really hurt it anymore. I assumed he would have some soreness and he would miss a few of these training camp practices.”

Nick Roach has taken the first team reps in the middle with Lance Briggs staying put at “Will” linebacker and newcomer Geno Hayes getting reps at “Sam”. Hayes has played primarily on the weak side of his career, so if you’re looking for a bright side, getting him more reps at a different spot adds some depth at the linebacker position.

“Technically, we like all our guys to be interchangeable. As soon as somebody goes down with the first three (Urlacher, Briggs & Roach), the fourth guy, we feel like we want to plug him in at any position,” linebackers coach Bob Babich said.

The Bears play Denver on Thursday night at Soldier Field and I think it’s a longshot that Urlacher suits up. With 13 years in the league, Urlacher’s participation in any preseason game, but the third, would be pointless. One could even make an argument that he shouldn’t play at all until the games count.

“Everything we do right now is to prepare for the Indianapolis Colts,” Smith said, referring to the season opener Sept. 9.

That may mean getting used to Urlacher wearing his fisherman’s hat and no pads for the next few practices in Bourbonnais. When you’re talking about a 34-year-old player, nothing is a given. Urlacher has beaten the odds just to get to this point. The Bears are doing the right thing by being cautious, but it won’t stop the questions if Urlacher continues to miss time.

Follow Laurence on Twitter at @laurencewholmes for more updates from Bears camp.

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