Bears look to veteran wideouts to fill in

LAKE FOREST – Bears coach Lovie Smith made a rare slip from his typical top-secret mode Tuesday while discussing the extent of Alshon Jeffery’s hand injury.

“[It’s a] minor injury that’s going to take a few …,” Smith said before stopping himself. “I’m not going to go into how long.”

Replace the ellipses after “few” with “weeks,” and you likely have the answer.

Jeffery has averaged less than three catches for 36 yards a week, but the rookie’s 6-foot-3, 216-pound frame provided Jay Cutler with another tall target alongside Brandon Marshall in the passing game. He reportedly will miss 4 to 6 weeks because of a broken right hand, which could cost him at least three games after the bye.

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said injuries were a part of life for every team in the NFL. He said the expected return of wide receiver Earl Bennett, who has missed two games because of a hand injury, should help fill the void left by Jeffery.

“We have injuries, and this is one that’s too bad because he was starting to come on,” Tice said. “[There’s] a great rapport between he and Jay, but now, hopefully, we can get Earl back and just keep going.”

Another option: Devin Hester also could receive more opportunities as a receiver with Jeffery forced to the sideline.

After catching two passes for 27 yards in his first three games, Hester has caught five passes for 87 yards in the past two contests against Dallas and Jacksonville.

Cutler said he would be happy to see the trend continue.

“We’re putting him in spots to be successful,” Cutler said. “When we put him in there, we’ve got to be creative and find ways to get him the ball. When he has the ball, when we give him chances, he makes things happen. We just got to keep getting better and better at that, and he’s got to be excited about it.”

Taking a break: As players take advantage of the long weekend to head for hometowns or warmer climates or both, Smith has other intentions.

“I’m looking forward to watching some high school games this week, college games this week,” Smith said. “Of course, there’s a full slate of NFL games. Every time you watch a game as a coach or as a player, you can learn something.”

What could Smith learn from watching a high school game?

“[There are] situations that pop up,” Smith said. “There will be some strange things that will happen that will help me as a coach, maybe help me handle the situation a little bit better if I’m in there.”

Bears bits: In a practice squad move, the Bears signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and released running back Harvey Unga. Aiken attended Central Florida and appeared in two games for the Buffalo Bills in 2011.

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