LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears second-year offensive tackle Gabe Carimi followed his return to the field with a day of rest Wednesday during the team's second session of organized team activities.
Carimi, who had not been on the field since late December, when he underwent surgery on his right knee, said it was part of his six-month rehabilitation plan.
"I woke up and it felt great, but we always had it planned that we weren't gonna practice today," Carimi said. "So I get to come out tomorrow and do what I did on Tuesday. It's gonna be great."
Wearing a white Chicago Bears cap, Carimi stood on the sideline watching rookie James Brown take first-team repetitions at right tackle along with five-year veteran Mansfield Wrotto. The day before, Carimi participated on a limited basis, but feels the strength slowly returning to his right knee.
"We're taking it slow right now," Carimi said. "I feel like I'm explosive off it right now, and hopefully we'll keep on progressing."
The 29th pick of the 2011 draft, Carimi served as the opening day starter last year before partially dislocating his right kneecap in a Week 2 loss at New Orleans. Carimi attempted to return in November after missing five games and undergoing arthroscopic surgery, and he participated in a full practice before the team's Nov. 7 win at Philadelphia.
Twelve days later, the Bears placed Carimi on injured reserve, and the next month he elected to undergo an additional procedure that required six months of rehabilitation.
"You try to get back as soon as possible, especially early in the season, and then you finally have to come to the realization that you won't be able to come back," Carimi said. "That's never been a situation I had to go through, so it was kind of hard to be like, 'All right, that was it. I'm not going to be able to make it back by this season, and even if I did, it would be playoffs."
Having missed the first month of the club's voluntary workout program, in addition to the first three sessions of OTAs, Carimi worked with the first team during Tuesday's workout at right tackle, before sitting for the next session. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said on May 11 that he expected Carimi to return before all of the team's OTA work concluded, calling the tackle "right on track" in the recovery process.
"I'm not behind at all. The doctor said since the surgery it would be about six months. It's the 30th, so six months was three days ago. I'm right there," Carimi said. " . . . I feel real happy with the progress I've made even though there's points in it where you're just like, 'Is this ever gonna get better?' Obviously it has. I feel great now."
On an offensive line teeming with question marks, Carimi brings some stability at right tackle, assuming he doesn't suffer setbacks in rehabilitation. The club worked Wrotto and rookie A.J. Green in Carimi's customary right-tackle spot during OTAs last week.
In addition to undergoing the surgery to prevent knee dislocation from becoming a recurring issue, Carimi said he's not wearing a knee brace with patella protection built into it. Carimi said the knee "just feels stronger than it has," but he knows the real test won't come until late July, when the team begins training camp.
"I'm real confident it's not gonna happen again," Carimi said. "Obviously, anyone can get rolled up on and anybody can tear any ligament. It's just luck of the draw. Coming back from minicamp, (the test is) just going day in and day out with the pads on. You're never gonna know until you get the pads on."