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Bears might work out minus unsigned Forte, ailing Urlacher

The Chicago Bears begin their voluntary offseason program with players Monday, but they might not have running backs Matt Forte or linebacker Brian Urlacher.

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Forte can't participate unless he signs his $7.74 million franchise tag.

"In the offseason, I tell the guys if you have an issue with your contract, out of season is the time to work on those things," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday before the team's Ed Block Courage Award was presented to Urlacher. "That's what Matt is going through right now. I'm on record of how we feel about Matt Forte. We start up Monday. Hopefully, he'll be there. If he's not, then we're going to go to work with the players that we have there. We have a lot of time."

Urlacher's participation likely will be spotty. He suffered a sprained left knee during the regular-season finale and didn't need surgery, but he said Tuesday he's not going to rush his recovery.

"I've still got 3½ months, four months," Urlacher said. "So I'm definitely not in a big hurry. I've done everything up to this point that I've been asked to do. I'm going to keep doing what I've been told to do. Like I've said ... when the time is right, I'll be ready to play. I'm not worried about it. It's not an issue. I'll be good to go."

Running back Kahlil Bell, who started two games in Forte's absence last season, has received a $1.26 million tender offer as a restricted free agent. The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Bell is expected at Halas Hall on Monday even if he has not signed his offer. The newspaper cited his agent, who said Bell will sign an offseason workout agreement to protect him from any injury while at the Bears' facility.

The Bears don't have minicamp for the full team until the end of their offseason program in late June. The late minicamp also could benefit tackle Gabe Carimi, who's coming off knee surgery, and guard Chris Williams, whose 2011 season ended because of a dislocated wrist.

It's less certain when wide receiver Johnny Knox will be available after December back surgery following an injury against the Seattle Seahawks.

"He's making a lot of progress," Smith said. "From the time we saw him lying on the field to where he is right now, you know, making the same type of progress throughout. Things should be OK for him. As far as when he'll be back 100 percent and ready to go, I don't know that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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