Earl Bennett returns to Bears practice
LAKE FOREST -- Chicago Bears receiver Earl Bennett returned to practice Friday, a day after the team held him out of a workout because of an ankle injury, and coach Lovie Smith said he'll be available for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, along with linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.
"We're healthy," Smith said. "Pisa Tinoisamoa practiced today. Earl Bennett practiced today. So we should have our entire group ready to go. We realize what's at stake."
Bennett worked on kickoff returns during the special-teams portion of practice Friday, alongside Tinoisamoa, who was limited during Thursday's practice as he continues to recover from a Dec. 3 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
After overcoming somewhat of a slow start to the season, Bennett is the team's second-leading receiver, with 45 catches. He has averaged 64.6 yards over the past three games, which includes a breakout performance -- seven catches for a career-high 104 yards -- on Dec. 5 against the Detroit Lions.
Bennett has caught five passes of 20 yards or more, including four receptions of 30 yards or more, and, capitalizing off his chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler, leads the team in third-down receptions (18).
After practicing inside at the Walter Payton Center on Thursday, the club returned outside Friday to complete preparation for Sunday's contest.
"It was good to get back out into the elements," Smith said.
Tinoisamoa, meanwhile, has missed four of the past five games with a knee injury. Although the veteran participated in Friday's practice, and Smith declared him ready to go, it's unclear whether he'll play against the Jets. Nick Roach replaced Tinoisamoa over the past three games, contributing eight tackles and a pass breakup.
If Tinoisamoa isn't able to play Sunday, Roach could end up taking his place in the starting lineup. All signs point to Tinoisamoa playing, however.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
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