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Bears WR Johnny Knox vows to return to the field

Johnny Knox heads upfield after second-quarter receptiBears' game against AtlantSoldier Field Chicago Sunday Sept. 11 2011. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

Johnny Knox heads upfield after a second-quarter reception in the Bears' game against Atlanta at Soldier Field in Chicago Sunday Sept. 11, 2011. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 28, 2012 6:17AM

Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox isn’t surprised that he’s starting the 2012 season on the physically unable-to-perform list.

But he fully expects to play again in the NFL.

“I do believe I’ll be back on the field,” Knox said. ‘‘It could be this season, next season. Who knows? But I’m going to keep striving to get better and get back on the field.”

That’s an ambitious goal given his gruesome injury. Against the Seattle Seahawks last Dec. 18, Knox was drilled in the back and suffered a spine injury that required surgery.

Knox, however, was around Halas Hall the entire offseason, working out and regaining strength.

The physically unable-to-perform list requires him to miss the first six games of the regular season.

“It was to be expected,” Knox said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to come back for training camp or preseason, so I’m just still taking it day by day.”

Asked about his hope of returning in 2012, Knox said, “Most definitely. It could be six weeks into the season or later in the season, but we’ll all see.”

The Bears have dramatically improved his position, trading for Brandon Marshall, adding Eric Weems via free agency and drafting Alshon Jeffery in the second round. But the team has been very supportive of Knox, who made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner his rookie season and had a career-high 960 receiving yards in 2010. In three seasons, Knox has 12 touchdown receptions and 2,214 receiving yards.

A fifth-round pick, Knox said watching practices and not being able to contribute has been difficult.

“But I’ve learned some things by sitting back and watching the other guys,” he said. “The guys are out there competing and having fun, and I just want to have a piece of that.”

Coach Lovie Smith said the team has hope for Knox.

“I’ve seen him improve so much, and I’m not just talking about since the injury, but just in the offseason,” Smith said. “All you can do if you’re Johnny Knox is come and work, and he started almost immediately, and it’s been like that every day.

“And I know it’s tough for him at the level he’s played at not to be there right now, but he’s getting a little bit better each day.’’

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