LAKE FOREST — In the wake of his mother’s death, linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice with the Chicago Bears on Thursday, putting many of his teammates at ease.

LAKE FOREST — In the wake of his mother’s death, linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to practice with the Chicago Bears on Thursday, putting many of his teammates at ease.

“It’s such a tough situation,” Chicago’s other star linebacker, Lance Briggs, said. “I don’t know, I’m just glad he’s back.”

Urlacher had been absent from Halas Hall since his mom, Lavoyda Lenard, was found dead in her home outside of Mount Pleasant, Texas, on Monday. He was back on the field Thursday, but for a couple of days the Bears were preparing for Sunday’s game in New Orleans as if they’d be without him.

That re-raised the question of whether the Bears have enough linebacker depth to withstand injuries at the position.

Most of the players were hopeful they could; but few were completely sold on the idea. Starting strong-side backer Nick Roach was one who was.

“Yeah, sure we could. It’s virtually the same kind of depth we had two years ago when he was gone,” Roach said. “Pisa (Tinoisamoa) was hurt at the time, too, so we’re really looking at about the same thing.”

The Bears have two stars at the position, perennial Pro Bowlers in Urlacher and Briggs. And they have a reliable strong-side backer in Nick Roach. But after that, what was once a deep and experienced corps is now thin and young.

Tinoisamoa is an unsigned free agent after an offseason knee injury, and the Bears’ other linebackers remain unproven.

Still, Roach believes Chicago’s defense would remain strong if it lost a linebacker.

“I think so. We were kind of faced with this two years ago, when Lach (Urlacher) was injured,” he added. “And that’s why they have other people on the roster: So people can step in.”

The Bears lost their defensive captain in the first game of the season back in 2009. The Bears went 7-9 that year, and that was with Hunter Hillenmeyer backing him up. Hillenmeyer retired after a head injury last year, and the Bears replaced him with some youngsters.

Chicago is 21-13 with Urlacher in the lineup the last four seasons, and 7-8 without him.

Roach started three games for the Bears at middle linebacker in 2009. Backup Brian Iwuh is primarily a special teams star. Undrafted rookie Dom DeCicco said he was ready to step in when needed, while fellow rookie J.T. Thomas is still on injured reserve and rookie Patrick Trahan is on the team’s practice squad.

That doesn’t leave many experienced linebackers waiting in the wings.

“That’s something that has to be addressed when you get there,” defensive end Israel Idonije said. “When that comes, you address it.”

That time has not yet come. If it does, the Bears will have to replace experience with youth.

Reach Jay Taft at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.