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Urlacher returns, Briggs out

LAKE FOREST – Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and wide receiver Earl Bennett returned to practice Monday, but linebacker Lance Briggs was sidelined because of an ankle injury.

Briggs was ruled out for Thursday’s game against Cleveland.

“He should be ready to go next week [against Detroit],” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

It’s unclear whether Urlacher and Bennett will play Thursday, but their returns mark progress for a team that has had its fill of injuries in the first month of the preseason. Urlacher injured his left calf muscle Aug. 21 against Oakland, while Bennett battled a hamstring injury throughout training camp.

“It felt good getting back out here and getting into the swing of things,” said Bennett, who slipped to No. 5 on the depth chart. “I’m just trying to get myself all the way back.”

Urlacher returned to the practice field a day after his cameo appearance aired on the HBO series, “Entourage.” That might have been the linebacker's only speaking role of the week – he walked past reporters after practice Monday.

Roster moves: The Bears whittled their 80-man roster Monday by releasing quarterback Matt Gutierrez, wide receiver Zeke Markshausen and defensive lineman Maurice Evans.

Running back Harvey Unga will not count against the roster because he is on injured reserve, which brings the total to 76 players. The Bears will need to cut one more player today.

The next round of cuts is due Sept. 4, when the Bears must trim their roster to 53 players.

Markshausen, who grew up in Capron and attended North Boone, spent three weeks with the Bears. The Northwestern alum did not tally any receptions during the preseason.

On the rise: Second-year cornerback D.J. Moore impressed Smith and his fellow coaches enough to earn a starting nod at nickel back on Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.

“He’s a guy that was on the outside looking in,” Smith said. “But he’s done enough where he started this past game. … I like some of the things that Corey Graham did at the nickel position, too. They’ll keep battling to see who is the guy.”

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