LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has left the team following the death of his mother.
Urlacher's mother, Lavoyda, died unexpectedly at her home in Texas, the team said Wednesday in releasing a statement from their veteran leader.
"My first priority right now is to be with my family as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest," Urlacher said. "This is a very difficult and emotional time for us and I sincerely ask that you respect our privacy."
It wasn't clear whether Urlacher will be back for practice or in time for Sunday's game at New Orleans.
Coach Lovie Smith said the team will let Urlacher have as much time as possible to grieve. Smith said Urlacher was one of the first to phone him after his own mother died in the offseason.
"Unless you've been through it, there's no way to make it any better than it is at the time, but he'll get through it," Smith said.
Urlacher had 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown in Chicago's opening win over Atlanta.
"You can't replace a guy like that," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "You can't find a guy like that in the league. He's the heart and soul of this organization. We all know he's going through a tough time right now, but we're going to respect his privacy and when he gets back we'll be here for him."
The 33-year-old Urlacher is in his 12th season with the Bears and is the face of the franchise. He is coming off a comeback year in which he had 96 tackles, 29 assists and four sacks along with an interception one season after a wrist injury sidelined him for all but the opener.