Chris Harris doesn't practice

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears' optimistic outlook on their injury situation for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers turned the opposite direction Thursday, with the team holding out safety Chris Harris, who experienced soreness in his injured hamstring and was unable to practice.

Harris participated fully in Wednesday's practice, giving the team hope he'd be ready to return to the starting lineup against the Panthers before the latest setback. The club also held out backup running back Kahlil Bell, who on Thursday experienced tightness in his back.

"Those are two guys we're counting on," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Hopefully they'll be able to get some work in tomorrow."

The club also continued to hold out receiver Earl Bennett (torso), right tackle Gabe Carimi (kneecap) and tight end Matt Spaeth (calf).

Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (hip) worked in a limited capacity Wednesday, but was able on Thursday to rejoin his teammates on the practice field.

According to offensive line coach Mike Tice, the team has been encouraged by the progress of Carimi, who suffered subluxation of his right kneecap in a Sept. 18 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Although the process of recovery from such an injury is generally four-to-six weeks, Tice expects a quick return for the rookie.

"Carimi's working hard. He's one tough son of a [expletive]," Tice said. "So however long they say he's gonna be, he's probably gonna be shorter because he's a tough guy, and I really think it comes down to pain [tolerance] with that injury. I'm pretty sure he can take a lot. So I feel good about his progress. He's doing a good job."

The latest news on Harris, meanwhile, comes as somewhat of a surprise since he's been out since straining the hamstring during the Sept. 11 opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Harris described himself as day to day with the injury, initially.

"You're always concerned when a guy misses a Thursday practice, but we have a little bit of time, still," Smith said. "We have other guys to play if he can't go. But hopefully, he'll be able to."

With Harris and second-year safety Major Wright (concussion) out of the lineup last week, the Green Bay Packers capitalized by going after backups Craig Steltz and Brandon Meriweather, who played major roles in tight end Jermichael Finley catching three touchdown passes.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was hoping to have both Harris and Wright back in the lineup against the Panthers. Wright has practiced all week, and is expected Sunday to return to the starting lineup.

"Anytime you add veterans to the mix, guys who have seen it all, it brings more stability," Marinelli said of Harris and Wright. "We've just got to keep bringing the other men on. But a veteran presence is special for us."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.