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Banged-up Bears take 'mental day'

LAKE FOREST – The Bears returned to the practice field Wednesday at Halas Hall, albeit in sweat pants and long-sleeved shirts instead of helmets and shoulder pads.

Bears coach Lovie Smith decided to conduct a walk-through instead of his typical 2 1/2-hour practice to start installing the next week’s game plan.

“We have a lot of guys banged up today, and just felt like we could get more work done [with] meetings,” Smith said. “We’re going to walk through. We’re just not going to have a full-fledged practice that we would normally have on a Wednesday.”

The light workload allowed extra rest time for more than a dozen players who appeared on the Bears’ midweek injury report. Eleven players would not have participated if practice had been conducted, including Jay Cutler (neck), Brian Urlacher (hamstring), Tim Jennings (shoulder), Lance Briggs (knee/hip), Shea McClellin (knee) and Henry Melton (chest).

Cutler said he appreciated the gesture. He remained confident he would play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers despite neck stiffness.

“I think it’s a smart decision,” Cutler said of resting. “We’ve got a lot of guys banged up. You get at this point of the season and you hope that guys will be smart enough to take a ‘mental day' and process information and be prepared on Sunday.”

In the mix: Rookie offensive lineman James Brown is expected to compete for playing time at left guard this week, offensive coordinator Mike Tice said.

Brown split playing time with starter Edwin Williams on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. At 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds, Brown is athletic but unpolished.

“We like James,” Tice said. “He’s a big guy. When he hits you in the pocket, you stay hit. There’s no more movement. You’re not pushing the pocket back.

“He made some mistakes, but that’s anticipated. We felt like we would live with those mistakes as long as they weren’t a bucket full of them.”

Familiar face: The Bears re-signed defensive tackle Amobi Okoye to fill the roster spot that was left vacant by the release of offensive lineman Andre Gurode.

Okoye (6-2, 292) appeared in six games with the Bears this season before he was released Nov. 27. He has started 59 of 84 career games in parts of six seasons with the Bears and the Houston Texans.

Bears bits: Stephen Paea (foot), Chris Spencer (knee) and Charles Tillman (shoulder) all would have been able to participate fully in practice Wednesday. … Israel Idonije has zero sacks in 16 career games (six starts) against Green Bay.

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