Versatile Nick Roach steps in for injured Brian Urlacher

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The Bears signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting linebacker Geno Hayes to push Nick Roach at strongside linebacker. But Roach not only has to keep his own job, he’s filling in for Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.

Roach, a five-year veteran from Northwestern, isn’t worried about having to replace Urlacher.

”Brian will be fine,” Roach said. ”He’s the last guy you have to worry about being ready to play.”

Still, Urlacher has missed most or all of the last four practices — a sign he might not be fully recovered from sprained ligaments in his left knee that he suffered in Week 17 against the Vikings last season.

”Yeah, but even with that, he does everything that needs to be done on the field,” Roach said. ”He’s not a guy that just misses because something’s even bothering him. We’re always ready for whatever comes up.”

Roach is a solid, if unspectacular, starter at strongside linebacker. He had 61 tackles (26 solo) last season, including six tackles-for-loss.

With Urlacher out, Roach has moved to the middle, with Hayes playing Roach’s strongside position with the first-team defense.

”Obviously you’re never going to replace Brian,” Roach said. ”The biggest thing is the communicating and all the adjustments. He’s our quarterback on defense. Having that be your job that you have to pick up is obviously a big difference.”

Roach received a vote of confidence from teammate Lance Briggs, though he would like the soft-spoken Roach to speak up a little in the huddle.

”Nick knows the defense as well as anyone,” Briggs said. ”The Lord didn’t bless his vocals to go higher than what they do. He has to max on it. But Nick’s good at it. He knows how to communicate. We all know how to communicate. That’s the key.”

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