- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The injury list continues to grow for the Chicago Bears, but despite the team keeping out eight starters from Wednesday's practice, coach Lovie Smith expects the majority of them to return to the field by the end of the week.
In addition to holding out quarterback Jay Cutler (thumb) and running back Matt Forte (knee), the Bears worked Wednesday without running back Marion Barber (calf), linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle), tight end Kellen Davis (back), receiver Devin Hester (ankle), defensive tackle (Henry Melton), and defensive end Julius Peppers, whose absence wasn't injury related, according to Smith.
"So more guys than we would like on the sidelines for a game like this," Smith said. "But we still have a little bit of time [for players to get healthy]."
Smith said that Cutler and Forte "continue to make progress" along with Melton, who missed practice time last week because of a sore shin and was inactive Sunday in the team's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Smith also disclosed that Briggs "should be able to go tomorrow" and that Hester "is getting better."
Melton participated in the walkthrough earlier Wednesday, but the team decided to keep him out of practice. Melton produced a sack in the team's Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers and received credit for two quarterback pressures.
So with the Bears facing Green Bay in the second meeting between these teams on Sunday, Smith is hopeful Melton's health improves enough for the defensive tackle to put on a repeat performance against a banged-up Packers offensive line.
"[It's] very important to get all of our starters back out there, but just talking about that phase of the game, yes, we missed Henry this past week," Smith said. "He's an athletic guy inside that can give your typical guard trouble."
Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) and receiver Greg Jennings (knee) are out. The team held out defensive ends Ryan Pickett (concussion) and Mike Neal (shoulder) from Wednesday's practice, along with linebacker Desmond Bishop (calf), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring/back), and running back Brandon Saine (concussion).
Green Bay also listed running back James Starks (knee/ankle) on its injury report, but he participated fully in Wednesday's practice.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
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