LAKE FOREST – Bears running back Matt Forte’s toughest test of practice might have come when reporters were allowed on to the field after the final horn Monday.
Perhaps not wanting to answer questions about his injured right ankle, Forte jogged diagonally across the field before anyone with a notebook or microphone could reach him. He wore no visible brace or boot on his ankle, which he sprained Thursday when Green Bay Packers safety Charles Woodson tackled him from behind.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was encouraged by Forte’s progress, although the running back sat out Monday’s practice and is uncertain to play Sunday against St. Louis. Smith said Forte had an ankle sprain but emphasized that it was not a high-ankle sprain, which typically requires a month or more to make a full recovery.
“He looked pretty good today,” Smith said. “We’re not ruling him out of anything just yet. He has a long way to go. I don’t want you to start thinking he’ll be out there practicing tomorrow – he’s not. But we’re making progress.”
If Forte cannot play, Michael Bush likely will start in his place. The Bears also re-signed running back Kahlil Bell to provide depth along with third-stringer Armando Allen.
Baby steps: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher appeared slow to adjust to several passing plays across the middle of the field Thursday, but Smith stood by his 34-year-old starter.
Urlacher practiced Monday in shorts and shoulder pads along with his teammates. He missed most of the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
“I still see improvement,” Smith said. “Just keep in mind where he’s come [from]. The first game, he got about 30 reps. …
“We didn’t expect him to be Hall of Fame form right away, but he did some good things in that (Packers) game also. We all need to take another step this week.”