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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Gabe Carimi's return will be delayed at least another week.
The club held Carimi (partial dislocation of right kneecap) out of practice on both Friday and Saturday -- after the rookie participated fully in Thursday's session. Carimi's absence means Lance Louis will start his third consecutive game at right tackle Monday night when the team faces the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Gabe Carimi hasn't responded as well as we wanted him to," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "So we're gonna keep him out another week. We're not gonna play him this week."
The Bears didn't expect Carimi to return against the Eagles, and earlier in the week multiple sources said the right tackle wasn't yet ready to assume his role in the starting lineup. The team put Carimi through an extensive workout on Thursday, and Smith expected the rookie to suffer some soreness in the knee, which is why he was held out the past two days.
With the exception of Carimi, the entire Bears' roster participated fully on Friday, and will be available for Monday's game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Smith considers the upcoming matchup an opportunity for the Bears to "show everybody that we've made the necessary improvements and we're gonna be one of the teams to contend with."
"It's a primetime game, Monday Night Football. There is something different about it," Smith said. "There's something different when you're the only one playing and you know that everyone, your peers are all watching. So we do get up for that."
The Bears plan to utilize the same lineup along the offensive line for the third consecutive game against the Eagles. Offensive line coach Mike Tice prefers to bring Carimi along slowly to prevent the rookie from suffering a setback in his recovery from the right kneecap injury he suffered on Sept. 18 at New Orleans.
"I try not to stick my head into paper too much, but I'm pretty sure you guys are saying all the same things I'm thinking, which right now [is] we're getting better," said Tice. "You've got a guy coming off an extended period of time out. So why force it?"
The club has gradually progressed with Louis filling in for Carimi at right tackle, and Chris Spencer taking Louis' place.
Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered 14 sacks over the first three games, but that number has been cut by more than half (6) over the team's last three outings.
Given the improvements, the pending decision about where to play Carimi once he's healthy is actually what Tice considers to be "a good problem."
"Guys are playing better with more confidence. I like where we're at," Tice said. "We've learned we're probably not good enough to just be out there [with] five guys blocking all the time. We need the help [from tight ends and running backs], and we've done that. I think offensively we're starting to get better, and starting to find our way a little bit."Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.