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Bears minicamp is minus Matt Forte, but Michael Bush has been a plus

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had high praise for running back Michael Bush (29) Tuesday minicamp. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had high praise for running back Michael Bush (29) on Tuesday at minicamp. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

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Updated: July 14, 2012 6:39AM



Running back Matt Forte’s absence from the mandatory minicamp Tuesday didn’t surprise anyone. Forte isn’t under contract, so he won’t be fined for his absence, which is his way of reminding general manager Phil Emery that he thinks he deserves a lucrative long-term contract extension.

“It’s not an issue for me, and it can’t be,” coach Lovie Smith said. “During the course of the year, you have guys who aren’t here for whatever reason. You coach the guys who can go, who can practice. We’ve been spending all our time with that.

“I know Matt Forte. I’m sure he’s getting ready to go. But in the meantime, the best thing we can do for the Chicago Bears is just keep this train going, which we’ve done.”

Michael Bush took snaps with the first team in Forte’s absence. The Bears are hoping he can be the physical runner they’ve lacked in recent years.

“It’s really helping him,” quarterback Jay Cutler said of Bush getting more work. “He’s such a pro. He does things the right way. He comes ready to work. He’s a smart guy. He picks up the system quickly. Whenever we get Matt in here, he’s going to add a different dimension to this offense, but right now Mike’s doing a great job for us.”

The Bears have been focusing on the passing game during minicamp because it’s virtually impossible to practice running plays without contact. Still, offensive coordinator Mike Tice likes what he sees from his running backs.

“We love Michael,” Tice said. “He’s a really good back. You need to have two good backs, and we have two good backs. Of course, we love Matt, and we’re excited about having Mike, and we like [Armando Allen], too. We’re excited about our blend back there. We think they all complement each other, and they’re all going to be able to find their niche and make big plays for us.”

Urlacher on pace

Linebacker Brian Urlacher was among a handful of players who worked out on the side.

He’s still recovering after injuring his left knee in the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

“He’s not ready to go yet,” Smith said. “He’s on pace. Our plan was to take it slow with him. We know what Brian can do; it’s not like he’s going to tell us an awful lot out here. He’s right on pace, [and] he should be able to get a good rest of his offseason in and be good to go for training camp.”

Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery didn’t participate because of what Smith called a “lower leg injury.”

“Hopefully, he’ll be able to do something before this minicamp is over,” Smith said.

Hash marks

The Bears waived cornerback Donovan Warren.

◆ Defensive back Mike Holmes (Syracuse), tight end Darcy Johnson (Central Florida), running back Embry Peeples (Georgia Tech), defensive lineman Eli Joseph (Temple) and offensive lineman Cory Brandon (Oklahoma) are participating in minicamp on a tryout basis.

◆ Tickets for Bears Family Fest are available through Ticketmaster. The public practice will be held at Soldier Field on Aug. 3. Tickets cost $8. Activities outside the stadium begin at 4 p.m. with gates opening at 5 p.m.



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