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Knox could get opportunity to start
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/11/2009 12:00 AM

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With Devin Hester still sidelined from practice with a strained calf and looking doubtful for Sunday, rookie Johnny Knox could play an even bigger role than he already has.

The fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian has outperformed the four rookies the Bears drafted above him combined. Knox has 36 catches for 415 yards and 4 touchdowns. Devin Aromashodu, who has just 2 catches for 16 yards, would also see more snaps if Hester is out.

"It's a big opportunity," Knox said. "When somebody goes down, you've always got to be ready to step in and make big plays. Devin's a big part of this offense. We would miss him, but we're going to have to keep doing what we're doing.

"I don't feel like it's a big deal. There have been games where I played more reps, so I feel comfortable with the offense now. If I did start, it wouldn't be a problem."

Bears receivers have been bashed all season, but Earl Bennett, the other starter across from Hester, has 45 catches for 599 yards and a team-best 13.3-yard average.

"They've been beat up all year," coach Lovie Smith said. "They haven't gotten a lot of respect. But this is a good time for them to step up and show exactly what we have because we're playing against a good secondary."

Five-time Pro Bowler Charles Woodson has the ability to shut down whomever he's covering. But the Packers' other corner, Tramon Williams, was flagged three times for pass interference Monday night against the Ravens, costing his team 103 yards in penalties.

Pacing himself: Offensive tackle Orlando Pace (groin) was limited in Thursday's practice inside.

Pace will be questionable at best when the official injury report is released this afternoon, leading to speculation that Chris Williams will start his second straight game at left tackle and Kevin Shafer his second straight at right tackle, where Williams started the first 11 games.

"We drafted him to eventually play that position," coach Lovie Smith said of Williams. He looked comfortable there, did a lot of good things for his first time out, (but he has) a long ways to go."

Cool customer: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL by a wide margin with a 132.0 passer rating on third downs, and the Packers are fourth in the NFL in red-zone scoring, thanks to Rodgers.

"He's like 'Iceman,' " linebacker Lance Briggs said, using a "Top Gun," reference. "The only counter you have for 'Iceman' is to be 'Maverick.' That's what we've got to be. 'Maverick' is dangerous."

Injury update: Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee), weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs (knee), middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (groin) and defensive lineman Israel Idonije (knee) all participated fully at Thursday's practice and are expected to play Sunday.