LAKE FOREST, Ill. (Nov. 9, 2006) -- Brian Urlacher summed up the Chicago Bears' most pressing issue with a simple answer.
"Toe's fine," he said nonchalantly.
Urlacher's left big toe, sprained in a loss to Miami last week, has been the subject of speculation for three days. How bad is it, how much does it hurt and -- most importantly -- will it prevent him from playing against the New York Giants?
It did keep Urlacher from practicing for a second straight day Nov. 9. But the 2005 defensive player of the year sounded like he plans to play at Giants Stadium, even if he didn't or couldn't say for sure. He's still listed as questionable on the injury report.
Without pads and a helmet like the rest of his teammates, Urlacher was limited to playing catch. He did break into a short jog at one stage and lined up with the linebackers during a couple of drills, but was mainly a spectator.
Coach Lovie Smith said he was hoping his five-time Pro Bowler would practice Nov. 10.
"He's in better spirits if that's what you're asking me. Definitely so," Smith said.
Urlacher said he'd prefer to practice but missing it wouldn't keep him from being ready to play.
"I still watch a lot of film, still watch practice pretty closely, so I should be OK. I'm not gonna get to hit and stuff like that, but I should be all right once I get back in there," Urlacher said.
And how, if he doesn't practice, will he know if he can withstand the pain?
"I'll be OK, that's how I know," he said.
What if the Giants deliberately go after his toe and stomp on it? Or what if he just gets stepped on inadvertently?
"I'm not worried about it, I really don't know to tell you the truth. I really don't care, if they stomp on my toe, that's the way it goes," he said.
"If they know what's wrong, that's just part of the game. If I get stepped on, I get stepped on."
Does he expect the Giants to alter their approach to go after him if he's not at full strength?
"I know they got a few injuries of their own with guys being out, but I expect them to run the ball like they've been all year long. I don't know if they'll change their game plan based on what they think is wrong with me. I hope they do. It'll give me a chance to make some plays," he said.
Urlacher added he would do what the training staff tells him as far as wearing extra protection for the toe -- an injury he got in a pileup near the end of last week's game -- and isn't worried that the turf on the Giants' home field will aggravate his injury.
The game begins a tough three-game road stretch for the 7-1 Bears. The Jets and Patriots follow, so having a healthy Urlacher is essential for Chicago. When he was out two years ago, the Bears were 0-7.
"If I can be out there, I will," he said.