- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 29th pick of the 2011 draft, Carimi opened last season as a starter before dislocating his right kneecap in a Week 2 loss at New Orleans. The injury resulted in two surgeries and a six-month rehabilitation period.
But instead of worrying about potential health issues, Carimi seems more focused on his actual return to the field, which takes place Thursday at Olivet Nazarene University, when the Bears kick off their first workout of training camp.
"I don't think I have any concerns," Carimi said. "(I'm) just ready to go. I haven't put on pads since I got injured (on Sept. 18). I have to see how that all pans out. I felt good in camp; was moving around, staying around people when they made their inside move. But you don't actually know if you're going to be able to engage and slow them down. It's a whole different ballgame once you put on the pads. So we'll wait and see."
Carimi returned to work with the team during organized team activities and offseason minicamps, but also took time off to rest on occasion, with James Brown and Mansfield Wrotto taking over his repetitions.
Carimi said the club wanted to take his rehabilitation slowly during the offseason. But now it's time to ramp up his reps.
If Carimi returns healthy without any setbacks, he'll play a significant role in solidifying the right tackle position.
During the offseason, the rising second-year pro wore a knee brace fitted with built-in patella protection. The club doesn't work out in full pads until Saturday, but Carimi considers that practice session to be the first in a series of tests that will quickly determine his readiness for 2012.
While confident he can eventually return to the form he achieved before injury, Carimi isn't exactly sure when he'll be back up to full strength.
"We've got three weeks until our first preseason game, so it doesn't matter as long as it's done before regular season," he said. "We'll see."
Carimi also expressed excitement about the subtle changes former offensive line coach Mike Tice will bring as the club's new offensive coordinators.
"He's going to run more off the numbers," Carimi explained. "We're going to run it when we can and pass it when we can based on the numbers in the box. So, we're just going to play smart football; nothing crazy, nothing out of our element. We're doing some stuff that we did last year. It's not completely different. It's just when we're actually running the actual plays that we're running we're going to look at the defense (to determine calls). Having a smart quarterback like Jay (Cutler), he's going to be able to make the calls on what we're going to be doing. So a lot of times we might have two calls in the huddle."