Brian Urlacher: Injury helped technique
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Injuries generally don't help a player's game.
Yet that's the situation in which Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher finds himself a little less than a year removed from the dislocated wrist that wrecked his 2009 season. Bears coach Lovie Smith believes Urlacher is having the training camp of his 11-year career.
Interestingly, the linebacker attributes his play -- which includes a more "conscious" effort to play technically sound with his hands -- to the injury.
"This is the best I've used my hands since I've been with [Smith] -- like getting off blocks, moving and getting to the football," Urlacher told ESPNChicago.com. "They're big on that. So that's probably why [Smith] said that. [My wrist] hasn't hindered me. It makes me think about using my hands more, actually.
"There were times where I would just throw my [shoulder into a blocker]. I'm still learning how to play linebacker. It's been a while, but I'm still [learning] to use my hands. That's an ongoing process. I think [it's that way] with all linebackers; using your hands and getting off blocks, and shedding guys. This is the best I've done at using my hands, being conscious about it."
Urlacher admits the increased awareness comes from the natural tendency to brace for the pain associated with contact. Urlacher said he was confident the injury was healed, but was told by the medical staff that "it could take up to two years [for] the pain to go away."
"I was a little nervous coming to camp because I haven't hit anybody, hadn't fallen on it, hadn't braced myself, hadn't hit anyone with pads on. But it hasn't bothered me at all, knock on wood," Urlacher said as he knocked on a table.
Asked whether the anticipation of pain made for better hand technique, Urlacher laughed.
"Yeah, because I'm thinking about putting it on there ... I'm like, 'Is this gonna hurt?' And it hasn't hurt yet. It's been good," he said.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.