INDIANAPOLIS – Lovie Smith is expecting Gabe Carimi to give the Bears a needed upgrade at offensive tackle without having to turn to the draft.
But the Bears’ head coach was unsure of whether the second-year right tackle would be ready to start the offseason program after Carimi missed the final 14 games of his rookie season with a dislocated kneecap.
‘‘I don’t know exactly when Gabe will be ready off the top of my head,” Smith said Thursday during a press conference at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. ‘‘I just know I see him every day working and everything is going as planned.”
But Smith stopped short of saying for certain that Carimi will be 100 percent for this season. ‘‘There’s no reason to think …” he said before switching gears., ‘‘We’re excited about what Gabe Carimi will bring. We talk about adding pieces and I look at him as a free agent we’re adding. He’s a first-round draft pick who barely played for us last year.”
Elsewhere, Smith said he expects quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Brian Urlacher to be fully recovered from injuries. Cutler missed the final six games after suffering a broken thumb against the Chargers on Nov. 20. Urlacher suffered a sprained MCL in the season finale against the Vikings.
‘‘Brian Urlacher is in perfect health right now,” Smith said. ‘‘Jay Cutler’s thumb is fine. So we can’t see anything major with injuries that we’re going to have to deal with.”
But even Smith hinted that it remains to be seen how quickly receiver Johnny Knox recovers from the spinal fracture he suffered against the Seahawks on Dec. 18.
‘‘I’m just counting on him to get better each day and we’ll see how it all plays out,” Smith said ‘‘There’s a long road to recovery. We have time. Johnny’s ready to go. He’s one of our guys. And I’m hoping that he’ll be OK.”
Running back Matt Forte missed the final four games after suffering a sprained MCL against the Chiefs on Dec. 4, but played in the Pro Bowl without any apparent problem.