Carimi's return still a work in progress

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears right tackle Gabe Carimi acknowledged Thursday that his re-entry into the starting lineup remains a work in progress after he missed the majority of the 2011 season with a knee injury and undergoing subsequent surgery.

Carimi received somewhat of a break during Wednesday’s practice, as the club broke up the regular rotation -- which had alternated between Chris Williams and J’Marcus Webb at left tackle -- and worked Williams with the first team in Carimi’s right tackle spot. The Bears stuck to the same rotation for Thursday’s practice session.

“First time back in about 10 months now; just getting myself a little break,” Carimi explained of the Wednesday rotation. “I’m doing great, had the best day of practice (Wednesday) all camp. So it was good just to take a little bit off. It’s getting better and better. There was a little rust in the system. It’s starting to feel a lot better now.”

While Carimi’s lightened workload on Wednesday could be viewed as a measure to rest his surgically-repaired knee, the decision to move Williams into his spot for increased repetitions could also be seen as an attempt by the Bears to take a closer look at Williams, who could become the swing tackle if he loses the competition to Webb for the starting job on the left side. Bears coach Lovie Smith said he'd like to see the team name its starting five on the offensive line "as soon as possible."

“I’ve got a good base of what we’re trying to do as a team and what (offensive coordinator Mike) Tice is trying to do as a unit,” Carimi said. “So I don’t feel like I’m being just thrown into it bare. But there’s definitely a sense of what I need to prove to be out there.”

William’s increased work Wednesday in Carimi’s spot might also be a motivational ploy for the 2011 first-round pick to increase his production. Speaking specifically about the left tackle position, Smith said “you’re going to see a lot of different combinations at a lot of different positions,” adding that “we want to get a good look at everyone.”

That’s part of the reason why the Bears utilized the same rotation for Thursday’s session, said Smith, who pointed out that Carimi has shown gradual improvement.

“All of our football team is making progress,” Smith said. “We’re not ready yet, but yes he is (making progress). For Gabe, coming off an injury, the physical part of being able to just hold up, that’s big for him. Of course, his technique is getting better, too.”

Carimi underwent two knee surgeries after dislocating his kneecap in a Week 2 loss last season at New Orleans, and admitted to still “having slight discomfort in the leg.”

“It’s kind of been going up,” Carimi said of his recent practice performances. “I’ve been getting better and better and better, so (Thursday) should be my next-best practice. This is the biggest break I’ve had since high school, or even before high school I guess; being out 10 months. (I’m) just getting back to the rhythm of things.”