Stephen Paea sits out practice

Updated: August 12, 2012, 7:39 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears projected starting nose tackle Stephen Paea sat out practice Sunday after suffering a left ankle injury near the end of a workout Saturday at Olivet Nazarene University.

Paea suffered the injury just before the Bears took part in a full-team, two-minute drill.

Athletic trainers retaped the ankle, and Paea immediately stood up and appeared to test it. It appeared he was healthy enough to return to the workout Saturday, but Sunday the defensive tackle was spotted wearing a walking boot on his left leg during practice.

"I was trying to get off (and continue practicing Saturday), but it felt like something pinched in there," Paea said. "So I just stopped. I'd rather rest it out yesterday and have a quick recovery instead of making it worse."

Paea said athletic trainers gave him a one- to two-week timeframe for recovery, which might seem like an eternity for the second-year player considering he remains in competition with Matt Toeaina to keep the starting job at nose tackle.

"It sucks to go back and start over again, but we'll see. It's competition every day. As far as I see it, I'll come back and I've got to compete for it again," Paea said. "I've just got to get my mind right. I've worked too hard this, and it comes down to you can't be getting hurt. So I've just got to play it by ear and see how it feels."

Paea became one of the latest in a string of injured Bears defensive players. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher continues to rest his sore left knee, and linebacker Dom DeCicco (groin) remains hobbled. Defensive tackle Brian Price suffered a stinger in Sunday's workout and was taken off the field, while linebacker Geno Hayes missed practice because of an illness.

Bears coach Lovie Smith expects Price to return Monday.

"We have a couple of guys injured. This time of the year, that's normally how it goes," Smith said. "No one (has a) really serious (injury) that's going to be out for an extended period of time."

A second-round pick out of Oregon State in 2011, Paea claimed the starting job over the veteran Toeaina during the first week of training camp. Paea's promotion came after a rookie season plagued with injuries, starting with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee during Senior Bowl workouts prior to the Bears drafting him.

Paea didn't debut until Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings and finished the season with 18 tackles and two sacks in 11 games.

He appeared to be fully healthy at the start of training camp after taking part in the club's offseason training program. Although Paea expressed concern about potentially losing the starting job, Smith said "we've seen enough" to know the nose tackle's worth.

"We like what he did at the end of the season last year," Smith said. "He's a good football player. Eventually, we'll get him back out there, and he's going to play good ball for us this year."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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