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Greg Jennings’ absence will be felt

Packers receiver Greg Jennings (right slipping around Corey Graham) won’t be available burn Bears because knee injury. | Nam Y.

Packers receiver Greg Jennings (right, slipping around Corey Graham) won’t be available to burn the Bears because of a knee injury. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: January 24, 2012 9:51AM



The Green Bay Packers miss Greg Jennings. But the Bears sure won’t.

Jennings has been the bane of the Bears’ existence the last three seasons. He averaged six receptions for 102 yards with a touchdown and two two-point conversions in the Packers’ five victories over the Bears since 2009. And he’s a constant reminder that you don’t need a top-five pick in the draft to find a receiver as productive as he is. Jennings was a second-round pick in 2006 (52nd overall) out of Western Michigan. The Packers took him 10 picks after the Bears drafted Danieal Manning.

Jennings will miss Sunday night’s game against the Bears at Lambeau Field because of a sprained knee ligament he suffered against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 11. Maybe it was just coincidence, but Aaron Rodgers had his worst game of the season last Sunday without Jennings: an 80.1 passer rating in a 19-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Rodgers, in fact, is 0-2 without Jennings in the lineup. In 2009, he had an 83.4 rating — his second-lowest of that season — in a 31-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. In the Bears’ lone victory over the Packers in the last six meetings, they held Jennings to two catches for 18 yards, one of them an eight-yard TD which they overcame to win 20-17 at Soldier Field in 2009.

He seems to make a difference.

‘‘No doubt about that,’’ Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ‘‘You eliminate a great player from their package, that’s tough. But they’ve got great depth. They bring in guys. The tight end [Jermichael Finley] is a heck of a player. And there’s the threat of the running backs. We’ve got to make sure we’re solid there.’’

Briggs, Hester sit

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle), receiver Devin Hester (ankle) and running back Marion Barber (calf) did not practice Thursday. Tight end Kellen Davis (back) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (shin) returned to practice on a limited basis.

‘‘We’re going to need every good player we have to beat a mighty team like the Packers,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘We need to get a win in the worst way.’’

Graham absolved

Corey Graham is a Pro Bowl candidate as a special-teams player, but he’s had bad luck with penalties. He was called for ‘‘leverage’’ last Sunday when he landed on an opposing player after leaping over the center to try to block a field goal. It gave the Seattle Seahawks a first down, and they scored on the next play.

‘‘It wasn’t Corey’s fault,’’ special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. ‘‘He did what he was coached to do. Unfortunately, we had two other guys that didn’t execute the play right. They were supposed to hit the ‘B’ gap and went to the ‘A’ gap and drew the blockers in. Corey landed on those blockers. They weren’t supposed to be there.’’

Conte optimistic

Rookie safety Chris Conte, on injured reserve after badly spraining his foot against the Seahawks, is expected to have the injured foot in a cast for three weeks but said he’s optimistic he’ll be ready for the offseason program.

‘‘I was lucky it wasn’t worse than it was. But it’s not anything serious,’’ said Conte, who had his first tackle-for-loss of the season before suffering the injury. ‘‘I’ll be ready for everything [in the offseason]. I’m not going to miss any football stuff. I’ll have plenty of time to rehab and get in the weight room.’’

Conte, a third-round draft pick, had 43 tackles in nine starts.



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