Bennett, Rodriguez practice on Monday
October, 15, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesWith Alshon Jeffery sidelined, the Bears' depth with players like Earl Bennett is critical.LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith predicted last week the return of fullback Evan Rodriguez and receiver Earl Bennett for Monday Night Football, when the club hosts the Detroit Lions, and both players practiced Monday with the team returning to the field after a week off.
"We really enjoyed the bye week off. It's always good to get refreshed, heal(ed) up, which we were able to do," Smith said. "We had most of the guys working out today."
In other injury news, the team held out receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) on Monday, in addition to linebacker Blake Costanzo (thumb). Jeffery could miss at least two games recovering from a fracture in his right hand, while Costanzo, who wore a brace on his right hand at practice, should be able to play against the Lions despite last week undergoing thumb surgery.
Rodriguez ran pass routes during the portion of practice in which the media is allowed to view, and didn't appear to be suffering any ill effects from the sprained left MCL that kept him out of the club's last two outings. Bennett (hand) also caught passes during an early portion of the workout, and appeared to be fully healthy.
Bennett practiced during the week leading into Chicago's 41-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 7, and thought he'd be healthy enough to play in that contest but was declared inactive.
"Earl has helped us win a lot of games around here," Smith said. "Just getting his health back, it was hard for him to be out. But when you have a good player like Alshon that goes down and you can replace him with a guy like Earl that says a little bit about how strong our 53-man roster is."
Bennett admitted sitting the past two games hasn't been easy, but said he practiced Monday "pain free." Bennett is expected to fill in, potentially as a starter, during Jeffery's absence.
"Those guys are out there making plays and having fun," Bennett said. "We're winning and it's tough to just sit back and watch and not be a part of the fun."
The team rested several veterans last Wednesday during its last practice before taking the rest of the week off, including quarterback Jay Cutler, defensive end Julius Peppers, receiver Devin Hester and center Roberto Garza.
All took part in Monday's workout, including linebacker Brian Urlacher who will likely be given the day off Wednesday, which has been the team's recent custom to rest the veteran for at least one session going into a matchup.
Smith doesn't expect a week of inactivity to adversely affect his team.
"I don't think so at all," Smith said. "I hope we can come out the way we started off our football season against the Colts. We've been, like I'm sure they've been, waiting for this game for a long time. They're an excellent football team. We know the types of games we have between the two of us. For us (this) is another chance to get another win."