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Tackle Gabe Carimi impressive with Bears’ first-team offense

Nick Roach realizes his spot as Bears’ starting strong-side linebacker could be tentative. |  AP

Nick Roach realizes his spot as the Bears’ starting strong-side linebacker could be tentative. | AP

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Updated: November 2, 2011 5:42PM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It was only the first day in pads, but rookie offensive tackle Gabe Carimi looked as though he belonged right where he was Monday night — with the first-team offense.

Carimi, a first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin who had played left tackle with the second unit in the first two days of practice, started at right tackle with the first team and at least appeared to hold his own.

‘‘First, he’s a rookie coming in; you just want to see how they move,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘So we just feel like right now we want to look at Gabe on the right side. He can play both, but keep everything in pencil.’’

Carimi played left tackle in college, so the right side is an adjustment. But whether he was up against Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers or Henry Melton, he didn’t appear overmatched. He acknowledged some ‘‘rookie mistakes’’ but didn’t seem too fazed by them.

‘‘It was good,’’ Carimi said. ‘‘When I got my technique down, I was making plays. First practice in pads, there are some things to clean up. Just watch the film, and I should be able to do that.’’

Great Dane

As an undrafted rookie free agent trying to make the team without any offseason workouts, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher has one one thing in mind when he comes to practice: ‘‘Do something they’re going to remember.’’

The 5-11, 180-pound rookie from Ohio State is doing just that. Sanzenbacher earned reps with the first team in practice Monday
and will get more after catching everything that came his way.

‘‘He’s got a chance; he’s a player,’’ Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. ‘‘You get an opportunity to make plays, and that’s what he does. He’s steady. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far from him. We’re going to keep giving him opportunities.’’

Sanzenbacher had 55 receptions for 948 yards (17.2 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns at Ohio State last season and was a first-team All-Big Ten pick.

‘‘I haven’t had a choice but to raise my game,’’ he said. ‘‘Having everything shrunk down with the lockout, it’s even more limited time for rookies to get reps. And you’ve got to make the best of your opportunities. You want to show them you’ll do whatever it takes to make this team. That’s what I’m trying to do every day.’’

‘‘He’s a good football player,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We want to get the players in game-type situations. He’s making the most of it. We all noticed him tonight.’’

Talking turkey

Running back Matt Forte said his agent was in Bourbonnais to speak with general manager Jerry Angelo about an extension.

Forte, who is scheduled to make $550,000 this season, considered not reporting to camp on time but did so because Angelo assured him they would talk about an extension soon.

‘‘It’s better than negotiating over the phone,’’ Forte said.

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