LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -Brian Urlacher's bad back isn't the only painful issue facing the Chicago Bears these days. It may be the most important one, though.
Although Urlacher told foxsports.com an arthritic back is limiting his performance, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith insisted Monday the team does not ``play players that are injured.'' He dismissed the notion that Urlacher's inconsistency is the product of his pain. And Smith said he's ``not disappointed'' the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker revealed his condition, even though he wondered why Urlacher would do that.
Yes, Smith was a bundle of inconsistencies, just like his team.
A 16-7 loss to Detroit on Sunday sent the Bears reeling into their bye week with a 3-5 record and still searching for the rhythm they've lacked all season.
They've been rattled by injuries, and it's no secret that Urlacher's back has been bothering him the past few months. He missed a significant portion of training camp and has frequently been held out of practices this season.
Yet, he never acknowledged the pain was affecting his play until the story posted Sunday that he is having trouble bending and backpedaling. He also said he recently saw a specialist in Pittsburgh, who confirmed an earlier diagnosis by team doctors.
``The thing that's so frustrating is there is no clear-cut solution to give me relief,'' Urlacher told the Web site. ``I just have to deal with the pain.''
Urlacher continued his recent pattern of giving short answers to the Chicago media on Sunday, saying ``probably'' when asked if the report was accurate. He did say he will start answering fans' questions on the Web site, and his blog is expected to be running this week. Players were not available for comment on Monday.
``Do players play with pain?'' Smith said. ``Yes. Weekly, daily, players play with pain. To be truthful, Brian has felt a lot better lately.''
That seemed to contradict what Urlacher told foxsports.com. He told the site the back problem is more painful than the season-ending hamstring injury he suffered late in the 2004 season. The pain seems like a logical explanation for Urlacher's inconsistencies this season, but Smith dismissed that idea.
``He's not injured,'' Smith said. ``He can still play at a high level, which he's done.''
Urlacher started the season with 15 tackles at San Diego and had 13 at Philadelphia on Oct. 21, but he's been a non-factor in several games. The most recent was Sunday, when he missed several tackles against Detroit and was initially credited with just four, although that got bumped to nine after the coaches' review.
Urlacher also had five tackles against Minnesota on Oct. 14 and three against Dallas in Week 3, although he contributed two sacks in that game.
``Guys miss tackles in each game,'' Smith said. ``I would like to say (pain) is the only reason why guys miss tackles; that's not the case. ... Brian's injury doesn't have anything to do with how he's (playing).''
Even so, the pain was serious enough for Urlacher to seek another opinion in Pittsburgh.
``Every injury, we get a couple of opinions,'' Smith said. ``Maybe it's in Chicago. Maybe it's somewhere else. ... To be able to get great medical advice for our players, we'll do that. It's no more than that.''
Smith said he understands the concern but reiterated: ``Brian has pain in his back. Everyone in the league has that. If you're going to talk about Brian Urlacher, you need to talk about a lot of other people.''
Does Smith worry about how this could affect Urlacher's life after football?
``I think we're going a little far with what Brian's injury is,'' Smith said. ``How many games has Brian missed with his injury?''
None.
``He won't be in a wheelchair tomorrow or anything like that,'' Smith said. ``Brian has pain. Most guys have some form of pain that they're dealing with.''
Smith said he has no problem with Urlacher answering fans' questions on a Web site not owned by the Bears and added: ``I would like for all our players to talk to the media, get our point across, and evidently, Brian is trying to do that.''
But in a region where the White Sox's Ozzie Guillen, the Cubs' Lou Piniella and the Bulls' Scott Skiles fill notepads, Smith's tight-lipped nature stands out. He takes the less-is-more approach when revealing information, especially when it comes to injuries.
``You guys wanted Brian to talk,'' Smith said. ``The fans would like to know exactly what was going on with Brian. Brian chose that forum. I thought that was a good thing. Personally, I don't know why we would put that much information out there, but this is what Brian chose to do. He wanted to clear everything up.''
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