OT Gabe Carimi on track for return

Updated: April 5, 2012, 6:04 AM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery provided updates Wednesday on the potential return of injured offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and receiver Johnny Knox during a conference call with the club's season-ticket holders.

Back in February, Carimi said his surgically repaired right knee was pain free, and he's expecting to participate in the team's first offseason camp later this month. Emery said he's spent time with both Carimi and Knox during their respective rehabilitation processes. Carimi said he'd been rehabbing five days a week at Halas Hall.

"[Carimi] has been working tremendously hard," Emery said during the conference call, excerpts of which were posted on the team's website. "I have had a chance to visit with him a couple times and watch him rehab. We're very excited that he's coming back. He's going to really help solidify our offensive line."

The team's first-round pick in 2011, Carimi injured his right knee in the second game of the season in a loss to the New Orleans Saints. Initially, Carimi tried to recover without the help of surgery. But during his attempt to make a comeback, Carimi suffered a setback, which led to arthroscopic surgery in early November. Later the club placed Carimi on the injured reserve, and the next month, the offensive tackle underwent another procedure on the knee.

Knox, meanwhile, appears to be facing a much more difficult rehabilitation process. Emery seemed to acknowledge as much.

Knox suffered a fractured vertebra when he absorbed a devastating hit during a 28-14 loss Dec. 18 to the Seattle Seahawks. The damage from the collision resulted in Knox undergoing surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his back.

"He has made progress and will continue to make progress. As I've told him, ultimately it'll be him that will decide when he comes back," Emery said. "It'll be him telling us where he's at in the rehab process. We're a long way from having to make that decision and we're going to lean heavily on Johnny helping us make that decision. Johnny's made every effort to get back as quick as he can, and he is making progress. Yeah, you want to be cautious because it was a tough injury. It was a heavy-contact injury. Johnny understands where he's at. He's going to keep pushing forward, and there couldn't be a Bear with a better attitude than him."

Knox caught 37 passes for 727 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, but there's speculation he could miss a portion of the 2012 season. Even if the receiver returns to play in 2012, his roles on offense and special teams could be reduced because of the club's additions of Brandon Marshall and Eric Weems.

"I've had the opportunity to be down with him in the training room here in the last four or five weeks," Emery said. "Nobody puts more effort into it."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter