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Bears’ Bennett expects to return Sunday

(AP photo)
Bears head coach Lovie Smith watches his team before a game against the Dallas Cowboys, Monday in Arlington, Texas.

LAKE FOREST – After sitting out for one game because of an injured hand, Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett expects to play this weekend at Jacksonville.

“Gut feeling, yeah,” Bennett said Friday at Halas Hall.

Yet Bennett will not know for sure until Sunday morning.

Bennett, 25, practiced on a limited basis for a third consecutive day and was listed as questionable on the Bears’ injury report. He also was listed as questionable last week but ended up sitting out while teammate Dane Sanzenbacher took his place.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said Bennett made progress this week but did not promise that the fifth-year wide receiver would be on the field against the Jaguars.

“I think all guys need to practice, and when you miss time, it takes a while to get back there,” Smith said. “But Earl is … a guy that’s been around who knows how to get himself ready to play.”

Bennett has caught six passes for 82 yards this year while serving a complementary role behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. He wore a soft cast on his left hand after last week’s game at Dallas but did not expect to have to do so Sunday.

“It’s feeling a lot better,” Bennett said. “I’m able to catch the ball a lot better. I just look forward to this weekend to see what happens.”

No sweat: The Bears practiced outside with temperatures in the 40s Friday, which is a far cry from a forecast for Jacksonville that calls for temperatures in the upper 80s.

Smith, who wore a winter hat to practice, said the rapid change would be good.

“I think the guys will be excited about going down there and playing,” Smith said. “Most guys don’t like playing in cold weather. It’s kind of as simple as that.

“For us, wherever we play, they’re going to be playing under the same conditions, so we’ll be OK.”

Good start: If Marshall keeps it up, he will be a franchise record-holder by the end of the regular season.

Marshall (23 receptions, 352 yards) has averaged 88 receiving yards a game in his first four contests with the Bears. He is on pace to finish the season with 1,408 receiving yards, which would be the most in the 92-year history of the franchise.

Ex-Bears receiver Marcus Robinson holds the team record with 1,400 receiving yards in 1999.

Bears bits: Fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) was ruled out for Sunday’s game. … Running back Matt Forte (ankle) and defensive end Julius Peppers (ankle) were listed as probable.


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