Chicago Bears

Bears place Knox, Conte on injured reserve

LAKE FOREST – Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox had successful surgery to stabilize a vertebra Monday, but he faces a lengthy rehabilitation to resume his NFL career.

The Bears placed Knox on season-ending injured reserve along with rookie safety Chris Conte, who sprained his foot Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks and did not return.

Knox was taken off of the field on a stretcher Sunday after his torso was bent backward on a hit in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, and the Bears announced after the game that he would require back surgery.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday that Knox’s prognosis was good heading into next season. However, it’s uncertain whether Knox will be ready for the start of training camp.

“He’s out of course the rest of this year,” said Smith, whose team has games remaining against Green Bay and Minnesota. “But just looking to the future, it looks bright for him.”

Knox, 25, finished the season with 37 receptions for 727 yards and two touchdowns. He has caught 133 passes in three seasons with the Bears and is under contract through 2012.

Early ending: The Bears also will play the next two games without Conte, 22, who emerged as the team’s starting free safety in Week 6 after coaches demoted Brandon Meriweather.

In 14 games (nine starts), Conte registered 30 tackles, two pass break-ups and an interception. He was the Bears’ third-round pick (No. 93 overall) this spring out of Cal.

The Bears will head into Week 16’s game against the Packers with four healthy safeties: Meriweather, Major Wright, Craig Steltz and Winston Venable.

New guys: The Bears filled their 53-man roster by promoting three practice squad players: wide receiver Max Komar, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson and running back Armando Allen.

Komar, who played at Idaho with rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle, caught 12 passes for 117 yards for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010. He is expected to help fill the void left by Knox and Sam Hurd, who was released last week after his arrest on federal drug charges.

Gibson, 24, appeared in two games with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. Allen, 22, is a rookie from Notre Dame who spent the preseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bears bits: The Bears signed running back Robert Hughes to the practice squad. Hughes was with the team during training camp. … The Bears will return to practice Wednesday.

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