The Bears were without two of their opening day starters on the offensive line last week.
But right guard Lance Louis, who suffered a sprained ankle in the season opener, should be back Sunday after a full week of practice. But right tackle Gabe Carimi's partially dislocated right kneecap should keep him out another couple weeks, though.
"(Louis) is working hard, and we'll see how he's doing building his confidence up in his leg," offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "Hopefully he'll be more crisp and sharp and continue to get better and then we'll have to make -- Coach (Lovie) Smith will make -- a decision on which way we're going to go."
Smith said Louis appears ready to play, and his return could create any of several different scenarios on the O-line. Louis could simply reclaim the right guard spot from Chris Spencer, or he could take Chris Williams' spot at left guard, with Spencer remaining at right guard. Williams could wind up on the bench, or he could replace struggling Frank Omiyale at right tackle. Williams started 11 games at right tackle in 2009 before moving to left tackle and then to left guard.
Tice hopes to have Carimi back sooner than planned.
"He's a tough son of a (gun), so however long they say he's going to be, he's probably going to be shorter because he's a tough guy," Tice said. "I think it really comes down to pain with that injury -- how much pain he can take -- and I'm pretty sure he can take a lot."
Big shoes to fill:
Earl Bennett (bruised chest) will miss his second straight game Sunday, and quarterback Jay Cutler misses the security that the sure-handed wide receiver provides, especially on third down.
"We would love to have him out there, but that's part of the NFL, that's part of going through a season," Cutler said. "You're going to lose guys, and we have to have other guys to step in there and pick up the slack and Dane (Sanzenbacher) has done a good job so far."
The undrafted rookie from Ohio State is tied for second on the team with 9 catches, and although he's averaging just 7.3 yards per catch, he leads the team with 2 TD grabs.
In addition to Earl Bennett, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi will not play Sunday, and neither tight end Matt Spaeth (calf), nor safety Chris Harris (hamstring) is expected to suit up, although both were listed as "questionable." Spaeth did not practice all week. Harris went through a full practice Wednesday but suffered a setback and did not work the rest of the week.
"I'm not back to square one," Harris said. "Not at all. But it's just not ready."
Running backs Marion Barber (calf) and Kahlil Bell (back), safety Major Wright (head/neck) and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly (hip) were all "probable" after full participation in Friday's light practice.
For the Panthers, cornerback Chris Gamble (head) did not practice all week and was listed as doubtful. Safety Charles Godfrey (head) practiced and is "probable." Offensive tackle Jeff Otah (back) was limited in practice and is questionable. Defensive end Charles Johnson missed practice, but it was not an injury-related issue and is probable.
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