Urlacher is back

Posted: September 05, 2012

CHICAGO BEARS linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice Monday for the first time since July 31, hoping to play in Sunday's season opener.

Urlacher did not stop to talk to reporters, but coach Lovie Smith said the eight-time Pro Bowl player looked good considering he had arthroscopic surgery to his left knee Aug. 14.

Beyond Urlacher, the Bears also had starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea back from an ankle injury and starting safety Chris Conte returning from a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who signed early Monday, worked out, and defensive tackle Brian Price was cut when Okoye signed.

Noteworthy

*  Two days before the NFL season kicks off, no talks are scheduled between the league and the locked-out on-field officials. Both sides met for 3 days last week, but did not reach an agreement to end the 3-month-old lockout. Replacement officials who worked the preseason games will officiate the first week of the season, beginning Wednesday night with the Cowboys at the Giants.

* Maurice Jones-Drew will begin the season much like he did his NFL career: as a backup and third-down running back. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey says he expects Jones-Drew to rotate in on third downs Sunday at Minnesota. Mularkey says the NFL's leading rusher in 2011 also will "get a series" in place of starter Rashad Jennings.

Jones-Drew ended a 38-day holdout Sunday without a new contract. He asked the team to rework the final 2 years of his 5-year, $31 million contract, and the Jaguars declined.

* The San Francisco 49ers lost a key member of their defense after placing linebacker Parys Haralson on injured reserve. San Francisco also signed linebacker Clark Haggans to a 1-year contract to help fill the void as the defending NFC West champions prepare for Sunday's season opener at Green Bay.

The Niners announced the roster moves Monday without providing details on Haralson's injury, though he is believed to have hurt his left arm during the first half of a preseason win at Denver on Aug. 26.

*  Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyler Thigpen accepted a $1 million pay cut to improve his chances of staying on the team entering the season. Thigpen is now set to make a base salary of $1.5 million this season in the second year of a 3-year contract he signed last summer.

* The Arizona Cardinals signed offensive tackle Pat McQuistan, claimed outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman and placed offensive tackle Jeremy Bridges on season-ending injured reserve. The Cardinals already were short on tackles with the loss of Levi Brown for the season with a torn right triceps. The thumb injury to Bridges, sustained in last Thursday night's preseason finale against Denver, made the need even more pressing.

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