Bears' Smith expects RB Forte to return

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Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith expects running back Matt Forte to return this season from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.


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Smith said he ''looked pretty good'' on Monday, but he wouldn't put a timetable on Forte's return. Chances are he will miss a few games, although he played through a similar injury in 2009.

''Can't tell you exactly when or whether it's this week or next week or whatever, but hopefully we'll get him back soon,'' Smith said.

Forte was injured in the first quarter of Sunday's 10-3 loss to Kansas City and left the game. Chicago was already missing quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out indefinitely with a broken right thumb.

Smith said the Bears won't bring in a veteran quarterback even though Caleb Hanie is struggling, squashing speculation that they'll sign Donovan McNabb.

''We're not looking on the outside,'' Smith said. ''We're not having a quarterback tryout or anything like that.''

He also dismissed a report that offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be gone after the season, saying, ''If there is a change that would be made, I'll be making it. I definitely haven't discussed that with anyone.''

Martz reportedly turned down a one-year contract extension after last season's run to the NFC championship game, and he has an expiring contract. His name has been linked to head-coaching openings at UCLA and Arizona State, although he declined comment last week when asked about that.

The Bears (7-5) have more immediate concerns.

Three of the Chicago's remaining four games are on the road, starting this week at Denver, and the playoffs no longer appear to be a certainty for a team that had won five straight before dropping the past two. As if Cutler breaking his thumb against San Diego two weeks earlier wasn't bad enough, the Bears' fortunes took another turn for the worse when Forte got hit in the right knee by the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson on a run for no gain deep in Chicago territory with 6 minutes left in the first period against Kansas City.

He stayed down for several minutes while being tended to by medical personnel before walking off the field on his own power. He remained on the sideline for a short while before heading to the locker room, with five carries and 12 yards.

''Anytime you lose your star on offense - we already lost one - and to lose the best one we have, that's tough on the offense,'' receiver Roy Williams said. ''That's tough on a team.''

Entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, Forte sought an extension. Talks went nowhere, but that didn't stop him from having a career year. He was leading the league in yards from scrimmage and was third in rushing entering Sunday's game.

With Forte out, Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell figure to carry the load, and the results were mixed against the Chiefs.


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Barber ran for 44 yards on 14 attempts. He also set up behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in an illegal formation call that wiped out his 4-yard touchdown catch and forced Chicago to settle for a field goal in the second quarter. Bell finished with 34 yards on four carries, including a 26-yarder, but the Bears will need more if they're going to get by without Forte, not to mention Cutler.

Hanie struggled again, throwing three interceptions for the second straight week. He got sacked seven times and posted a 23.8 rating for the game. That did nothing to quiet calls for the Bears to bring in outside help, such as six-time Pro Bowler McNabb, but Smith insisted they're standing pat.

''We have our quarterbacks here now,'' he said.

Cutler's injury led them to put in a claim for Kyle Orton after he was waived by Denver, but the Chiefs got him because they had priority. Once that happened, Chicago signed journeyman Josh McCown as a backup, but he's been inactive the past two games behind Hanie and rookie Nathan Enderle.

When asked if the backups will take more snaps with the first team in practice this week, Smith said, ''With the first team? No more than they normally do. Like most teams in the league, you spend most of the reps on the guy that will be playing. And you get some reps for the next guy. That's what we'll do. This week, next week and in the future.''

Smith said McCown is progressing but was noncommittal when asked if he would be active for the next game.

''That's hard to say, this week,'' Smith said. ''We have time. Unless there's an injury, Nathan Enderle is our backup quarterback right now. We'll see how the week goes. I can't look that far into the future. But Josh is doing everything we're asking him to do, and he is making progress. But our focus is somewhere else right now.''

Notes: Smith said S Major Wright, who left Sunday's game, has a sprained shoulder, and the Bears ''should hopefully get back'' D.J. Moore this week. He sat out with an ankle injury.

Tagged: Bears, Chiefs, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Caleb Hanie, Nathan Enderle

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