Brian Urlacher spent a lot of time watching the Bears practice this summer. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)

Urlacher, who sprained his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in the 2011 finale, underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage Aug. 14 and admits the knee “is never going to be the same.” He returned to practice this week, but was held out Thursday as a precaution. His teammates, though, offer only cautionary advice for the Colts.

“If anyone thinks Brian is going to be a weak part of the defense, absolutely, run at him,’’ Israel Idonije told the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh. “At the end of the day, we’ll see.’’

Urlacher admits he isn’t at full strength.

“No, I’m not up to speed,” Urlacher said Thursday (via the Tribune). “I know the defense well, but I’ve got to get my technique down and work on some things. But I’m practicing, still. That’s all that really matters to me.

“I’ll get it down. The more I’m out there, the more reps I see, I’ll get better.”

Sounds as if testing Urlacher up the middle might not be a bad idea. Lance Briggs seemed to invite the Colts to give it a shot.

“They can try, but they will fail.’’

Is this just bravado or is the big, bad Bears defense as tough as it ever was? One thing is certain, as Haugh points out: For a change this season, the defense may be more of a question than the offense.

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Urlacher has surgery