Bears' Lloyd closer to returning after time off

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brandon Lloyd had his left knee wrapped in ice as he walked to his locker, a cold reminder that he's not quite 100 percent.

Even so, he's feeling better. Much better.

And the Chicago Bears' wide receiver indicated he's just about ready to return from his injury. He also stopped just short Monday of declaring himself ready to play against the Detroit Lions this week.

 "No idea," said Lloyd, who has missed the past three games.

The same goes for rookie left tackle Chris Williams, who appears to be ready to suit up for the first time when the Bears host Detroit this week.

"As far as I know, I'm ready to play," he said.

But he's not sure he will.

Keep starting cornerbacks Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman on that uncertain list, too, but move nickel back Danieal Manning off it. He said he's ready to return after missing the Bears' last game against Minnesota with a pulled hamstring.

Otherwise, there were few certainties but some encouraging words on the injury front coming from the Bears after their bye.

The most encouraging came from Manning, who said, "I had time to heal up, and I'm ready to go Sunday."

That's good news for a secondary that spent the past month absorbing blows like a prize fighter.

First, there was the injury to Vasher's right wrist that required pins to be surgically inserted. They're gone, but the question about his status lingers.

The same goes for just about every other defensive back except Manning.

An already short-handed secondary continued to take hits after Vasher's injury, with Tillman (left shoulder) and backup cornerback Trumaine McBride (left shoulder) going down in the Bears' loss at Atlanta on Oct. 12.

While McBride played the following week in a 48-41 win over Minnesota, cornerback Corey Graham got knocked woozy and rookie Zackary Bowman suffered a season-ending biceps injury. That spoiled an impressive debut in which he recovered a muffed punt in the end zone and sealed the win with a late interception.

The injuries in the secondary help explain why only three teams allowed more yards passing per game than the Bears (243.1) through Sunday, although they're allowing just 6.4 yards per catch. Other factors are a lack of pressure and opponents simply abandoning the run in favor of short passes.

Still, a healthy secondary would help.

Once he gets one, coach Lovie Smith will have another issue to address: the rotation. Specifically, whether Vasher or Graham starts.

"Nathan Vasher's a good football player," Smith said. "A lot's been said about him and whether he'll be starting. Nate's one of our guys. He's helped us win a lot of football games around here."

Which is something Williams hopes to help the Bears do.

Drafted with the 14th pick out of Vanderbilt, he was in line to start at left tackle before leaving the Bears' second practice with stiffness in his lower back. Two weeks later he had surgery for a herniated disk and returned to practice on a limited basis a month ago. He's been going without restrictions the past few weeks and the back apparently is no longer a major issue.

But Smith wasn't about to tip his hand, saying the Bears would activate Williams "if we think he can help us make some offensive plays" and adding they haven't made any decisions.

Lloyd, meanwhile, said he sees progress in his knee every day and might be 100 percent by Sunday.

"I feel more confidence every morning that I get up on it," he said. "So there's a possibility."

Signed to a one-year deal in March after five stormy seasons with San Francisco and Washington, Lloyd caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Sept. 21. But he went from his best performance to the injured list the following week against Philadelphia. He popped up after a 24-yard catch late in the first half but sat back down on the field as the medical staff tended to him before walking to the locker room.

Lloyd said if he's not 100 percent Sunday, he would have to be "pretty darn close" to play.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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