Just three weeks after having knee surgery, Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher appeared to be "right on schedule" to start the regular season after joining his Chicago Bears team mates in practice on Monday.
The eight-time Pro Bowler, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee three weeks ago to help relieve swelling, hopes to play in Chicago's National Football League (NFL) season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
"He had a good first day back," Bears coach Lovie Smith told reporters. "He was one of the guys. Today was back to the normal routine as much as anything.
"He's got to get in shape. I'm sure he'll tell you that and a few other things like that. But we didn't have any trouble with him today. He's right on schedule."
Urlacher, 34, did not talk to reporters on Monday but he was in an optimistic mood when he spoke to WFLD-TV Channel 32's "The Final Word" the previous day.
"I'm playing Sunday, that's a done deal," said Urlacher, who partially sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in Chicago's final game last season against Minnesota and was sidelined for the entire offseason training program.
"I feel good going into the season. There are going to be some restrictions (in practice) on what I can do because they don't want to overwork me too early. It's a long season ... but there won't be restrictions in the game on Sunday."
Urlacher's team mates were delighted to see him back in action.
"He looked good," fellow linebacker Nick Roach said. "He's back in the flow."
Center Roberto Garza added: "When you get one of your starters back, it will definitely boost the team. We know the type of player he is and getting him back on the field is a priority for us."
The ninth overall pick by the Bears in the 2000 draft, Urlacher has spent his entire NFL career in Chicago while establishing himself as one of the sport's top defensive players.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)