By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) As Bears mini-camp got underway in Lake Forest Tuesday afternoon, Brian Urlacher was once again on the sideline wearing a hat, not a helmet.
The Bears middle linebacker is still recovering from the knee injury he suffered in last season’s finale in Minnesota, but the team expects him to be full-go when training camp opens up in Bourbonnais in late July.
“There’s not a lot to explain. He’s not ready to go yet,” head coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. “He’s on pace. Our plan was to take it slow with him. We know what Brian can do. It’s not like he’s going to tell us an awful lot out here. He’s right on pace. He should be able to get a good rest of his offseason in. He should be good to go for training camp.”
Meanwhile, an equally important piece on the other side of the ball is back on the practice field and appears to have no issues. Right tackle Gabe Carimi returned fully in during last week’s OTAs and took all the reps with the No. 1 offensive line in Tuesday’s mini-camp.
So how much better will Carimi make the offensive line?
“A lot better,” Smith said. “A first round draft pick that’s a very good football player back in the mix. Been very pleased with what he’s done getting back out there. He hasn’t had any problems with the knee and it gives us a little bit more confidence when you see him out there.”
Granted, players can’t wear pads yet and it’s nearly impossible to evaluate the offensive and defensive lines without pads, but Carimi is moving well and has had no setbacks.
Elsewhere on the injury front, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery missed practice with a “lower leg injury” but Smith is hopeful the wideout will get some work in before mini-camp ends Thursday. Matt Spaeth missed Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed injury, but did some sidework. He also missed last Wednesday’s OTA that was open to the media. Johnny Knox continues to be out with his back injury.
Meanwhile, longsnapper Patrick Mannelly returned to the field and did the longsnapping with the No. 1 punt unit. He’s recovering from a torn ACL suffered against San Diego last season.
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