LAKE FOREST – So much for a respectful rivalry.
On Thursday, Bears and Packers players continued to talk trash across state lines in advance of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. Brandon Marshall started the posturing a day earlier when he challenged Packers defenders to defend him one-on-one, and then Packers tight end Jermichael Finley chimed in by saying the Bears did not miss much without Brian Urlacher.
Next came Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who was asked about Finley’s criticism of Urlacher.
“He’s an idiot,” Briggs said. “Just suit up, play ball.
“His comments aren’t going to change the outcome of the game. They’re not going to help him or anybody play better. Doesn’t really matter.”
Nick Roach is expected to start at middle linebacker for a second straight week in place of Urlacher, who injured his hamstring Dec. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Roach finished second on the Bears with nine tackles last week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Finley told FoxSportsWisconsin.com that the absence of Urlacher, 34, could help the Bears.
“Urlacher is at the end of his career right now; he’s playing a little slow out there,” Finley said to the site. “I don’t think they’re losing too much if he’s out. Putting another guy in might help them a little.”
Finley clarified his comments via Twitter on Thursday.
“Urlacher is a Hall of Fame player and person,” Finley said on his Twitter page. “I meant no disrespect to him in previous comments, I was simply trying to explain that his replacement in the lineup is a good player, as well.”
Sitting out: A half dozen players, including Urlacher, missed practice Thursday because of injuries.
Besides Urlacher (hamstring), the Bears practiced without defensive tackle Henry Melton (chest), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder), defensive end Shea McClellin (knee), running back Michael Bush (ribs) and receiver Earl Bennett (concussion).
Bears coach Lovie Smith said Jennings was “getting a lot better” but did not indicate whether he would be able to return this weekend after missing last week’s game at Minnesota. Several lingering questions should be cleared up today when the Bears release their final injury report.
Here’s the kicker: Bears special teams coach Dave Toub said 16th-year veteran Olindo Mare did not miss a field goal during the team’s tryouts to replace injured kicker Robbie Gould.
The Bears signed Mare on Tuesday, and he practiced Thursday for the first time with the team.
“Now, we’ve got to figure out what exactly is his range,” Toub said. “That’s going to be game time, when we get out there see what the weather is like, see how the field conditions are.”
Bears bits: Jay Cutler was one of six players who participated in limited drills in practice, but Smith said Cutler practiced “without any trouble at all.” … Eric Weems and Blake Costanzo share the team lead with 11 special teams stops.