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updated: 7/25/2012 4:38 PM

Bears' Knox jogging, but return a long way off

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  • While Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox says he's doing some jogging, he doesn't know when he'll be able to return to action. Knox is rehabbing from spinal fusion surgery he needed after a brutal hit last season.

    While Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox says he's doing some jogging, he doesn't know when he'll be able to return to action. Knox is rehabbing from spinal fusion surgery he needed after a brutal hit last season.
    Associated Press/May 2012


BOURBONNAIS -- For now, the best that injured Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox can hope for is this: baby steps.

The brutal hit he took late last season necessitated spinal fusion surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process that is still in its early stages.

"I'm jogging," said Knox, who still hasn't regained much of the 30 pounds he lost from an already spindly frame. "I don't have that same burst that I used to have, but that's to be expected with this injury. But I'm jogging and moving around pretty good."

Knox is certain to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), meaning he cannot be activated until Week Six, and even that could be wishful thinking. Late Wednesday afternoon, he was placed on the Active PUP list for training camp. A player on Active PUP can be taken off that list at any time during training camp once they pass a physical. Active PUP players count toward the 90-man roster.

"There's really no timetable," he said. "We're all taking our time on this. They're not rushing me; I'm not rushing myself. This was a serious injury, so we're all taking our time on this.

"Right now I'm setting small goals, taking a little bit at a time. At first I knew it was going to be hard to run. But now I'm running better than I thought I would. I'm getting my weight back a little more, doing heavier weights in the weight room. So I'm doing good."

Since Knox isn't expected to return anytime soon, but the Bears tried to compensate for any deficiency his absence would create, although it will be difficult to duplicate his elite speed. In addition to trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting Alshon Jeffery in the second round, veteran backups Eric Weems and Devin Thomas were signed as unrestricted free agents (UFA).

"We have 11 (other) wide receivers on the roster right now," general manager Phil Emery said, explaining how they tried to fill the void. "That was part of the overall look on how we (viewed) the UFA market and meeting our team needs."

Knox's 1,687 receiving yards over the past two seasons are 650 more than the next best Bear (Matt Forte), and Knox has averaged 19.2 yards per catch since 2010. His 19.6-yard average last season was second best in the NFL.

While it might require a long look into the future to envision Knox recapturing the skills that made him a big-play threat, that's what the 25-year-old Abilene Christian product is focused on.

"Each day I get better," he said. "Each week I get better. I improve in different things. I'm getting stronger all around. I'm still working."

Asked if he can come back to 100 percent, Knox says, "Oh yeah. Most definitely I will."

There have already been too many tough days to dwell on, which is why Knox tries not to focus on the negative.

"It was frightening at first, but I have a lot of great people surrounding me, keeping me positive," he said. I've been positive since Day 1 and I'm going to stay that way.

"There have been days like that where I've been down. But for the most part I always stay positive and stay motivated. That's why I'm out here today, getting better."

Being at training camp around his teammates makes it easier, even though he won't be joining them on the field.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "Even though I'm injured, I've never been so excited to come down here and be around the guys all day, every day and just focus on rehab."

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