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Matt Forte can walk, but injury still pains Bears

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnsends Matt Forte’s day early by plowing inhis right knee. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson ends Matt Forte’s day early by plowing into his right knee. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 6, 2012 8:17AM

In the bowels of Soldier Field minutes after a 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, running back Matt Forte walked past the Bears’ locker room and headed to his vehicle with his family and friends.

That he didn’t need crutches or a brace was one of the most encouraging signs on an otherwise disastrous day for the Bears.

Asked how he was doing, Forte said, ‘‘I’ll be fine.’’

He’ll undergo an MRI exam today, but as the Sun-Times first reported, the expectation is Forte sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

‘‘We just have to keep our fingers crossed,’’ coach Lovie Smith said, ‘‘and hopefully it’s not that serious.’’

From his home in Los Angeles, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Kharrazi watched the jarring hit in the first quarter in which Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson drilled Forte squarely in the knee with his left shoulder. Kharrazi said it’s very encouraging that Forte walked under his own power after the game, even if he had a slight limp.

‘‘When you have a valgus injury, where your knee goes inward, you are concerned about the MCL and the ACL,’’ said Kharrazi, a surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic who serves as a knee consultant with the Lakers, Dodgers and several other pro sports teams. “If all he has is an isolated MCL, he’s pretty lucky.’’

In 2009, Forte played through an MCL sprain. But this could be a different injury, the extent of which won’t be fully known until doctors see the MRI results. One of the keys will be determining how much inflammation there is.

Some MCL sprains could take six to eight weeks to heal, depending on other issues, Kharrazi said.

At 7-5, the Bears can ill afford to lose Forte at all.

After a dominant performance against the Philadelphia Eagles on ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ on Nov.  7, Forte has been the focal point of defenses, often with a safety called upon to help slow him down.

In the three games before Sunday, Forte averaged 60 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards per game. When he left the game against the Chiefs, Forte had five carries for 12 yards.

‘‘You see how important he is today without him,’’ receiver Devin Hester said. ‘‘We’re really going to have to go back to the drawing board this week because Matt was a key part, a really key part, of the offense. Hopefully, we can figure out a way.’’

Tight end Matt Spaeth lamented that he didn’t block Johnson well enough on that fateful play.

‘‘I felt horrible — [Johnson] made a good play,’’ Spaeth said. ‘‘I missed him. I was coming around, tried hookin’ him to get Matt outside, which we were supposed to do. But they were kind of all day jumping underneath and submarining and diving and different things all day. I don’t think anybody feels worse about the Matt Forte injury than me because it was my guy.’’

Veteran backup Marion Barber did a solid job running the ball with 44 yards on 14 carries. But he showed his inexperience as a receiver, failing to line up on the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-one from the four-yard line in the second quarter.

Barber was lined up in the backfield, but he motioned to the left side as a receiver. And with no one defending him, he easily caught a pass from Hanie for the touchdown. Except for his penalty.

The Bears settled for a 32-yard field goal.

‘‘That’s tough,’’ receiver Roy Williams said of Forte’s injury. ‘‘That puts the burden on Marion, Kahlil [Bell] and whoever else we bring in. We’re in a tough little thing right now. This team will bounce back and get a win next week.’’

But it’ll have to get more creative than ever, minus its two best offensive players, Forte and quarterback Jay Cutler.

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