Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has left the team to mourn the passing of his mother, Lavoyda Lenard, who died Tuesday in her home outside of Mount Pleasant, Texas. She was 51.

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

Our thoughts and prayers going out to Brian and his family, tweeted Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Urlacher, the seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000, has been excused from the team for an undisclosed amount of time. His status for this Sunday, when his Bears take on the Saints in New Orleans, is still undetermined.

That's going to be tough for our football team [if Urlacher doesn't play Sunday], but we're understanding, said Bears wide receiver Roy Williams. Whoever takes his spot [if necessary] will play well. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. He is the emotional leader of the football team, so we have his back.

Lavoyda Lenard, who Urlacher once called my heart, married Brad Urlacher at 16 and had three children, Sheri, Brian, and Casey, by the time she was 19. After divorcing Brad at 25, Lavoyda moved and raised her children in the small town of Lovington, N.M., for a fresh start. She worked three jobs, in a laundromat, grocery store, and convenience store, to support the family.

Six years after moving to Lovington, Lavoyda married Troy Lenard, an oil field pipeliner who instilled a sense of discipline in Brian as a growing boy. Once Brian discovered football, both his mother and stepfather were critical to his success.

You can't replace a guy like [Brian], Cutler said. He's the heart and soul of this team.

The team hopes to get Urlacher back soon, as the Bears' success is contingent on Urlacher's presence. Since 2008, the team is 21-13 with Urlacher in the lineup and 7-8 without him.