Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday it's "a little early" to cast predictions on the potential return of receiver Johnny Knox, who continues to rehabilitate from a serious back injury suffered in December.
"It would be hard for me to go into that right there," Smith said from the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "Are you a religious man? Do you talk to God? He can probably tell you. Besides that, it's going to be pretty hard."
The latest speculation has anonymous sources saying the receiver likely would start the 2012 season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Although several doctors have predicted at least a six-month rehabilitation process for Knox, Smith said that was premature.
"Doctors know?" Smith asked. "Give me his number and I'll call him as soon as we stop talking. I just know that Johnny is working hard each day. He has made a lot of progress. That's all we want, for Johnny to keep rehabbing, which is what he's doing. It's amazing how people are already diagnosing when he's coming back."
Sources close to the receiver agreed, but maintain Knox hasn't experienced any setbacks in his recovery. One source said Knox potentially starting the season on the PUP list is "news to us," and added that the receiver is prepping to play this season.
Knox absorbed a devastating hit during a 28-14 loss Dec. 18 to the Seattle Seahawks, which required him to undergo surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his back.
Knox caught 37 passes for 727 yards and two touchdowns in 2011, but 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.
ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.