Carimi: Knee is ‘feeling great’
LAKE FOREST – Football comes easily for Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi.
Patience? Not so much.
Carimi, 23, should not be watching from the sidelines for much longer. Carimi, the Bears’ first-round draft pick in 2011, returned to the practice field this week for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right knee to repair an injury that cost him the final 14 games of his rookie season.
“We’re taking it slow right now,” said Carimi, who sat out Wednesday’s organized team activities at Halas Hall but expects to return to the field today as part of an every-other-day practice routine. “But it’s feeling great. I feel like I’m explosive off of it right now, and hopefully I’ll keep progressing and getting even better.”
The Bears hope so, too. They could use the help.
On Wednesday, the Bears’ first-team offensive line included J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams splitting time at left tackle, Chris Spencer at left guard, Roberto Garza at center, Lance Louis at right guard and James Brown at right tackle.
Although it’s possible that Brown could emerge as a pleasant surprise for the Bears, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Troy, Carimi is the player who will be counted on to produce at right tackle. The Bears selected him No. 29 overall out of Wisconsin, where he was a consensus All-American.
After an impressive training camp, Carimi won a starting job as a rookie. But his positive momentum abruptly ended when he partially dislocated his right kneecap in Week 2.
Eventually, Carimi landed on injured reserve. Sitting out was a new and unpleasant challenge for a player who missed three games in his four-year college career.
“You get mental reps, but there’s nothing that beats actual reps,” Carimi said. “Mental reps are better than doing nothing and sitting on your hands, but in my opinion the best way to get any reps is to actually do it. It’s different when you get the facemask on.”
Another piece of equipment could be equally as important. Carimi will wear a knee brace this season that provides patellar protection and decreases the risk of re-injury.
“I’m real comfortable with that knee injury not happening,” Carimi said. “Obviously, anyone can get rolled up on, and anyone can tear ligaments. It’s just how the play forms. It’s the luck of the draw. Anyone can get hurt on any play.”
Instead of worrying about a fluke injury, Carimi is focused on improving in his second season. In some ways, he said, he still felt like a rookie preparing for training camp.
“I need to go back out there and actually get a season in there,” Carimi said. “I feel like I have to go out and prove myself again.”
Bears bits: Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte remained absent from OTAs as he seeks a long-term contract extension. … Besides Carimi, Bears players who did not participate in Wednesday’s session included Brian Urlacher, Johnny Knox, Kellen Davis, Patrick Mannelly and Kelvin Hayden.
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