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Bears hope to have Julius Peppers

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said defensive end Julius Peppers sustained a mild left knee sprain in the club's loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night, "but hopefully by Friday he'll be able to do some things and he'll be able to go this weekend" against the Minnesota Vikings.

Peppers briefly left the game in the second quarter on Monday, but in the locker room afterward walked with a significant limp. Smith said Peppers' "knee is still sore today" and that the team "is monitoring it."

Smith also added defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (knee) to the club's list of injuries, along with cornerback Charles Tillman (hip). Tillman is expected to be available for Sunday's matchup. But a source said Toeaina could miss two weeks or more with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament, which might result in rookie Stephen Paea finally making his NFL debut against the Vikings.

A second-round pick in which the Bears traded up to acquire, Paea has been a healthy scratch for all five games so far this season.

"Sometimes it's hard to get an opportunity," Smith said of the rookie. "But I've never seen a situation where a player that deserved to play didn't get an opportunity to. Stephen just has to continue to do what he's been doing -- going to work, practice and improving. He'll get his opportunity. We're still as high on him as we've been. Keep watching."

The club also is keeping a close eye on the recovery of receiver Earl Bennett (torso) and right tackle Gabe Carimi (right kneecap). Bennett spent time last week doing some light running, and Smith hopes "this week we'll get some good news for him to get him back on the football field."

Carimi, meanwhile, hasn't played since Sept. 18. But offensive line coach Mike Tice indicated the club has been encouraged by the progress the right tackle has made.

The team also is optimistic about the potential return of second-year defensive end Corey Wootton, who missed the first three games recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery before suffering a hand injury that kept him out of Monday's loss.

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