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Urlacher makes first team appearance at mandatory minicamp

Despite apparent dissatisfaction with his contract, linebacker Brian Urlacher showed up for the start of the Chicago Bears' mandatory minicamp Friday.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Despite apparent dissatisfaction with his contract, linebacker Brian Urlacher showed up for the start of the Chicago Bears' mandatory minicamp Friday.

"When it says mandatory, you're supposed to be at those things, so that's why I'm here," Urlacher said. "I'm supposed to be here. I'm not trying to send any message. It's a mandatory team function and we're supposed to be here."

Due to his displeasure with a nine-year contract that expires after the 2011 season, Urlacher has not participated in the Bears' offseason conditioning drills or their voluntary workouts, known as organized team activities. He has also hinted in published reports this month that he might miss minicamp.

Players who miss the three days of non-contact drills at minicamp are open to demotion or fines for contract violations.

"All that matters is I'm here with my teammates," Urlacher said. "That's really the only thing that matters right now."

Urlacher did not want to comment on his contract situation or the possibility the Bears might renegotiate the deal, which he signed in 2003 for $56.5 million, including a $13 million signing bonus.

In several published reports, Urlacher has said he feels his contract is outdated. On Friday, he said he's content to leave talk about his deal to his agent.

"Yeah, I play football," he said. "That's my job to come out here and play and participate in the mandatory stuff and that's what I've done."

Urlacher played in all 16 games in 2007 for the third consecutive season despite back problems that plagued him throughout the season, finishing with 123 tackles, 5.0 sacks and a career-high five interceptions. He said the injuries weren't an issue.

"I feel great," Urlacher said. "It really hasn't been an issue. I did the rehab -- I think it was six weeks or something like that. I feel great right now."

Urlacher, who had minor neck surgery following the season, said he has been doing his conditioning near his home in Arizona.

"He's healthy, 100 percent ready to go," coach Lovie Smith said. "We're expecting him to have the best year he's had so far and that's saying a lot.

"He's always stayed in great shape. He's a freak of nature as far as his athletic ability is concerned. It's still good. This is the first time we've actually seen him on the field, so that's good. And we saw the old Brian Urlacher."

A year ago, Urlacher's teammate Lance Briggs was threatening a holdout and missed workouts due to dissatisfaction with the lack of a long-term deal. The linebacker got a new contract at the outset of training camp, and Friday said he understands Urlacher's situation.

"It's part of the business and it's part of the business that none of us really like," Briggs said. "When you're in a contract dispute, you're viewed as selfish.

"Even though that is a fact that you're thinking about yourself, no one else is going to think about you but you. No one else is going to take care of you like you."

Briggs supports Urlacher's stance.

"In football, the way things work, if you've outplayed your contract, you've outplayed your contract regardless," Briggs said."It doesn't matter if you've been making a lot of money and you're a marquee player.

"Everyone knows what our marquee player has meant to not only this team but this city and this organization."

Note: The Bears have signed six of their picks from the NFL draft.

The Bears announced Friday that the team has agreed to four-year contracts with guard Chester Adams, defensive end Ervin Baldwin, tackle Kirk Barton, tight end Kellen Davis, linebacker Joey LaRocque and wide receiver Marcus Monk.

The team did not release terms of the deals.

The Bears selected Davis in the fifth round and the rest of the players in the seventh round.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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