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Lovie Smith ‘comfortable’ with Michael Bush as starting running back

“When Jay [Cutler] is not fiery that’s when I’m going have problem” BrandMarshall said. | AP

“When Jay [Cutler] is not fiery, that’s when I’m going to have a problem,” Brandon Marshall said. | AP

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Updated: October 21, 2012 2:59PM

Running back Matt Forte, recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered against the Green Bay Packers, is ‘‘making progress,’’ according to coach Lovie Smith, but he still could miss Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field.

Defensive end Julius Peppers also did not practice because of a sore foot. But Smith said he expects Peppers to practice Thursday and play against the Rams.

As valuable as Forte is to the offense, Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler are comfortable with Michael Bush as the starter. Bush has rushed for 96 yards on 26 carries (3.7 yards per carry) in two games, including 54 yards on 14 carries (3.9) against the Packers.

‘‘We said when we brought him in, we’re bringing in a starting tailback,’’’ Smith said. ‘‘So for us, it’s the next guy up, and however long it is — hopefully Matt won’t be out long ­ we feel comfortable with Mike while he’s gone.’’

Double-secret probation?

The Bears are showing as much confidence as they can in left tackle J’Marcus Webb, who appears on notice after left guard Chris Spencer was replaced by Chilo Rachal this week.

‘‘We have seven players that suit up every week and ... they all get reps with the ones,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. ‘‘We’re going to try to make a proper decision of the five guys we’re going to put in there that can protect our quarterback and help us run the football.’’

Rams RB Jackson ailing

Rams running back Steven Jackson did not practice ­Wednesday because of a groin injury he suffered against the Washington Redskins last week.

Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl player with seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, had 58 yards on nine carries early in the second quarter but did not play after failing to score twice from the 1-yard line.

He incurred an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after the second try when he spiked the ball out of frustration after not getting the call.

Daryl Richardson, a rookie from Abilene Christian, replaced Jackson and gained 83 yards on 15 carries (5.5), including a 53-yard run.

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