- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The return to the practice field of Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea has been pushed back another week as the club's medical staff decided to give Paea's left mid-ankle sprain extra time to heal in advance of the regular-season opener Sept. 9 versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Paea has been sidelined since he hurt the ankle at practice on Aug. 11, but he said Monday he expects to be healthy enough to play against the Colts in Week 1.
"Right now I think I'm behind," Paea said. "I've been missing two weeks and when I get next week I know coach (Rod) Marinelli will have a little surprise for me in practice. As far as that, I just got to get better, get my feet right, get healthy and hopefully it's not going to come back in the near future.
"The trainers are doing a very good job of running me so when I get back it's not going to be a surprise for me. They are training me and doing the best they can so when I come back I won't die in practice. Because I know in the game when I come back, it's going to be less than a week then it's going to be game day. Two games in five days, so I hoping I can come back and stay healthy and learn everything fast."
Before he got hurt, Paea was on-track to be the club's starting nose tackle after he outperformed veteran Matt Toeaina in the opening stages of camp. But after sitting out the past couple of weeks, Paea isn't sure if he will open up the regular season as a starter or as a reserve in the defensive tackle rotation.
"It's coach's call," Paea said. "So far right now, Matt Toeaina is doing a very good job. He has had good preseason games and is getting better every day."
Paea admitted he expects the ankle to continue to be a source of discomfort when he returns, even with the benefit of an extra week off. He says the team will continue to monitor the injury to make sure he doesn't suffer any additional ligament damage in the ankle moving forward.
"When I come back it's not going to be 100 percent," Paea said. "But what I can do is stay on top of it and gradually get better.
The Bears selected Paea in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft even though he sustained a major knee injury during Senior Bowl week practices. Paea reported to camp last summer at less than 100 percent and managed to play in 11 games as a rookie and record 18 total tackles and 2.0 sacks.