- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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"He's working hard. When I say hopefully, I don't know exactly when Gabe will be ready right off the top of my head," Smith said. "I just know I see him every day working and everything is going as planned and there's no reason to think [his absence could be an extended affair]. We're excited about what Gabe Carimi will bring."
Carimi underwent surgery in December to stabilize his right knee, and according to sources the procedure could require up to four months of rehabilitation. Sources said the club expected Carimi to be ready to return to action for the start of its offseason conditioning program.
Teams can start conducting offseason workouts on Apr. 16.
Carimi approached the team prior to the end of last season about receiving medical guidance on ways to improve the stability his right knee. Carimi suffered subluxation of his right kneecap in the second quarter of the team's Week 2 loss at New Orleans, and on Nov. 11 underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury.
The 29th pick of the 2011 draft, Carimi attempted to return after a five-game layoff, and participated in a full practice prior to the team's Nov. 7 win at Philadelphia. The week before that, the team worked Carimi into limited conditioning sessions.
Ultimately, Carimi's right knee didn't respond the way the team initially expected, and the Bears placed him on the injured reserve on Nov. 19.
Because of Carimi's long absence, Smith thinks of the rising second-year player as somewhat of a free-agent acquisition.
"We talk about adding pieces, and I look at him as a free agent we're adding to the mix," Smith said. "He's a first-round pick who barely played for us last year. "