Bears right tackle should be full speed after knee surgery when camp opens July 30
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 10:00 p.m. CDT, May 30, 2012
The Bears are taking it slow with Gabe Carimi and if all goes according to plan they will be full speed with the right tackle when training camp opens July 30.
The 2011 first-round draft pick sat out Wednesday's organized team activities after participating for the first time Tuesday since his injury last season. He's expected to work Thursday and then, barring any setbacks, he could participate in OTAs most of next week and in minicamp June 12-14.
It has been a long journey for the Outland Trophy winner from Wisconsin. Carimi played in only 11/2 games last season before suffering a subluxation of his right knee, essentially a dislocation. The plan was for him to return at midseason but he suffered a setback that landed him on injured reserve and eventually led to surgery Dec. 27.
Asked if he was on schedule, Carimi looked down at his watch.
"I am not behind at all," he said. "The doctor said since the surgery it would be about six months. What date it is it today? It's the 30th. So five months was three days ago. I'm right there."
The Bears are counting on Carimi, who missed only three starts in four seasons with the Badgers, in a big way. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said he was the team's best lineman at the time of his injury against the Saints in New Orleans. He had the same injury in college and that is why the decision ultimately was made to operate 31/2 months later after he he had weighed options thoroughly with visits to four doctors, including a team physician.
"It was a process of getting different opinions because it's not that common of an injury," he said. "If I had an ACL tear, it would have been done as soon as the swelling goes down. But a knee dislocation, you have other complications with it that you could have. It wasn't a light decision to be made.
"Now looking back, I feel real happy with the progress I made even though there were points in it where you're just like, 'Is this ever going to get better?' Obviously, it has. I feel great now."
Knee injuries can happen at any time but Carimi is confident he will not suffer the same injury to his right knee. He has a specially designed brace and said the knee "feels stronger than it was."
It is impossible to say where he is right now with the Bears in shorts and no pads. But Carimi can work on some technique and he has two months to prepare for the real test in training camp. There will be competition at left tackle between Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb and probably left guard between Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal. But the right tackle job belongs to Carimi if he doesn't get sidetracked.
An arduous year is behind him now and he's focused on helping a line with many questions do the job.
"I was here, still with the guys, watching film, seeing what they're doing, but there's no substitute for actually going out there and doing it," he said. "(Mental preparation) only goes so far when you have only seven seconds to assess (a play) on the field. It doesn't really quite carry over."
Extra points:Brian Urlacher (knee) remained sidelined and left the field early. Also sidelined were Kelvin Hayden (toe), Carimi (knee), Patrick Mannelly (knee), Kellen Davis (undisclosed), and Tim Jennings (rest). Jennings said he planned to return to practice Thursday. … Newcomer Jonathan Wilhite, playing with the first team at left cornerback in place of Jennings, had an impressive interception for the second consecutive Wednesday. … Tight end Kyle Adams banged up his shoulder during a collision with safety Craig Steltz. The injury appeared to be a lot worse at first glance.