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Bears linebacker Urlacher off team duty after mother's death

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has been excused from team duty following the death of his mother and is uncertain for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, the team said on Wednesday.

Urlacher's mother, Lavoyda Lenard, died on Monday at her home in Texas, a day after the Bears launched their National Football League season with a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

"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 in a statement released by the Bears.

"This is a very difficult and emotional time for us and I sincerely ask that you respect our privacy. Thank you."

Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler during 11 seasons in the league, was voted National Football Conference defensive player of the week after recording a team-high 10 tackles to go along with an interception and a fumble he returned for a touchdown against the Falcons.

The Bears said it was unclear whether he would return from family duties in time for Sunday's game in New Orleans.

"You can't replace a guy like that," Bears 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 won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and has established himself as one of the league's top defensive players.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)