Carimi hopes to partake in April camp

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears right tackle Gabe Carimi said his surgically-repaired right knee is now pain free, and he’s aiming to participate in the team’s first offseason camp in April.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Carimi said Saturday night at a charity event for the Jewish National Fund. “We’re making good progress. Getting me out there as soon as possible is a major thing.”

Carimi, the Bears' first-round pick in 2011, injured his right knee in the second game of the season. He tried to rehab the knee without surgery. But after a setback, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in early November and went on injured reserve list. He had a second surgery in late December to repair connective tissue around his patella and medial collateral ligament.

Carimi said he’s rehabbing five days a week at Halas Hall along with Johnny Knox and Patrick Mannelly. But the former civil engineering major wouldn’t put a firm number, percentage-wise, on his condition.

“I don’t know because I’m not playing football right now,” he said. “I’m feeling good, though, walking around with no pain. There’s no pain getting in my stance, no pain moving around.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith wouldn’t put a concrete date on Carimi’s offseason return when he talked to reporters this past week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

"He's working hard. When I say ‘hopefully,’ I don't know exactly when Gabe will be ready right off the top of my head," Smith said. "I just know I see him every day working and everything is going as planned and there's no reason to think [his absence could be an extended affair]. We're excited about what Gabe Carimi will bring."

Carimi said he doesn't believe he's an injury risk, calling this one "a freak thing."

"It's the hardest season I’ve ever had," he said. "And knock on wood, there’s never going to be that major of an injury."

There is one positive side-effect of his constant presence in the weight room this winter.

“I’ve been lifting the upper body a lot,” he said. “I feel like I’m chiseled up here.”

Carimi was happy that his former position coach Mike Tice got the promotion to offensive coordinator.

“It’s great, he said. “I’m excited about all the changes we have, and hopefully we can get some more players to come help us out a little bit. If we stay healthy, we’re going to be a good team to play against.”

Carimi hasn’t formally talked to new general manager Phil Emery yet, but he did suggest the Bears trade up for Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon in April's draft. That's an idea Bears fans can get behind.

“We could be just like Atlanta with Julio Jones,” he said.

The Wisconsin graduate happily mingled, took pictures and signed autographs at “An Evening with Gabe Carimi” Saturday night at a Chicago car dealership. Carimi said he’s hoping to create a lasting relationship with the Chicago region of the JNF, a charitable organization that focuses on developing infrastructure, and planting trees, in Israel.

“For sure, it’s always good to have a partnership with a great charity like this,” he said.