From Comcast SportsNetLAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice Monday for the first time since July 31, hoping to play in Sunday's season opener.Urlacher did not stop to talk to reporters, but coach Lovie Smith said the eight-time Pro Bowl player looked good considering he had arthroscopic surgery to his left knee Aug. 14."He had a good first day back," coach Lovie Smith said. "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 did talk to Fox TV before Monday about his condition and said, "I'm playing Sunday. That's a done deal."However, Urlacher also said the knee will not be 100 percent. "I will be as close to it as I can be," he said. "I have been doing some things. I've been in the pool. I have been running with our trainers and stuff on the side. But it's hard to get in shape in a week of practice. It's not possible. But I will get as close as I can to it."Bears players liked what they saw of Urlacher in practice."He's back in the flow," linebacker Nick Roach said. "We're still a long way away from Sunday, but just having him back is definitely positive."With Urlacher back, defensive players returned to their normal routine. Roach moved from the middle back to his regular starting spot on the strong side.Beyond Urlacher, the Bears also had starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea back from an ankle injury and starting safety Chris Conte returning from a shoulder injury. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who signed early Monday, worked, and defensive tackle Brian Price was cut when Okoye signed.Okoye had four sacks for the Bears last year, but left in free agency for Tampa on a one-year, 2 million contract. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and reached an injury settlement when he was cut by the Bucs on Friday. The Bears gave him a physical and are convinced he can help as a backup to Henry Melton."Amobi is one of our guys," Smith said. "There was disappointment when he signed with the Bucs. He's a young football player."Everybody was excited about getting him back. I know he's been injured before down there, but he had a good day of practice today."Okoye said his knee has healed completely after he tried to come back too soon. He immediately felt a part of the Bears' defense."It fits like a glove," he said. "Being here last year and knowing what I like to do, and what this defense asks of me to do, it's perfect."The Bears had acquired Price from Tampa Bay in July for a 2013 draft pick. But he struggled coming off a leg injury and sustained a head injury in the final preseason game -- the latest blow for a player who's had a rough time.Two brothers were killed in shootings in Los Angeles while he was growing up. His sister died in a car accident in May, and he and his wife decided to adopt her children. There were also reports of a fight with rookie safety Mark Barron -- a first-round pick this year -- in a team meeting room, an altercation that occurred a few weeks after Price was hospitalized for several days for mental and physical exhaustion following his sister's death.A second-round pick in 2010, Price, 23, played in 20 games with the Bucs, producing 27 tackles and three sacks.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.
The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?
"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.
"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.
The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen.
Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.
"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.
Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot.
Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...
STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.
"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”
ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo.
SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.
LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”
QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.
The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?
“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said.
OAKLAND -- Still only 28 years old, Kevin Durant already is visualizing his post-career options.
The Warriors forward wants to stay involved in the NBA, and he aspires to levels above being a coach.
“I want to be a GM, want to own a team, hopefully own a team and run it,” Durant said Thursday, after the team’s morning shootaround.
Minutes before the trade deadline of noon Thursday, Durant acknowledged to following the various web sites devoted to basketball-related speculation regarding potential deals and the thinking behind them.
It’s all part of his long-term plan.
“So I look to see what rumors are getting out there, what deals are being presented to these teams,” he said. “Try to figure that stuff out. It’s fun, especially for a guy who knows that part of the business.”
The latest former superstar to join the ranks of architects is Magic Johnson, who this week assumed control of the Lakers, the team with which he spent his entire Hall of Fame career. Johnson joins the likes of Larry Bird (Pacers) and Michael Jordan (Hornets).
Only Jordan, though, has the power of ownership.
Though several other former players run front offices, Durant would not be just another former player. Midway through his career, he already owns four scoring titles and an MVP trophy.
For now, he’s doing his homework, examining the Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to better understand its complexities.
“Obviously it affects me and affects my peers,” Durant said. “Like I said, I want to learn more and more about the business of basketball. I try to keep that fine line of keeping it pure and fun and also knowing that this is a really big business. So I like to go through the CBA, also ask questions.”