Bears DE Peppers may miss Vikings game

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is doubtful for Sunday’s home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is doubtful for Sunday’s home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Peppers, the team’s top pass rusher, has a sprained left knee and did not practice at all this week after getting hurt in Monday night’s loss at Detroit.

"I don’t know if they’ll completely change the game plan, but I’d say you’ll have an entirely different attitude not having Julius Peppers on the football field," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Vikings. "Great player, you have to deal with him. Especially on passing downs, you have to think about putting two guys on him. We need other guys to step up."

Nick Reed will likely see time as Peppers’ replacement. The Bears signed Reed, a seventh-round 2009 Seattle draft pick, after he had been released with an injury settlement last year. Reed is the all-time sacks leader at Oregon.

"He’s a tough guy to replace," Reed said about Peppers. "There’s not a lot of people who could just come in and fill his shoes. We’ve got a great D-line and a great defense and no one man is going to win this game. It’s going to be a team effort."

The Bears (2-3) and Minnesota (1-4) are both in need of wins to stay close to Green Bay and Detroit, the league’s last two undefeated teams, in the NFC North.

Peppers has two sacks on the season and had eight last year after signing a $91 million free agent contract to leave Carolina, one that included $42 million in guaranteed bonus money.

Corey Wootton had been the Bears’ third defensive end, but suffered a broken hand in preparations for the Lions game.

"I broke it, so it’s tough for a D-lineman to play with one hand," Wootton said.

Rookie Mario Addison is available as a backup, and Amobi Okoye can move from tackle to end after doing it several times in preseason.

The Bears’ other defensive changes come at safety, where rookie third-round pick Chris Conte will make his first start and second-year player Major Wright will also start with veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather moving to the bench.

Conte played some in the first two games, was deep on a 79-yard touchdown pass against New Orleans, and then dropped out of the first four safeties. Now the former California player is back and starting for a Bears defense that has been besieged with big plays the last four games.

"I think as long as we make them grind it out and make them beat us then that’s the best thing we can do," Conte said. "So, as long as we keep the ball in front of us and really guard against the big play, I think we’ll be all right."

Tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (knee) are out, while wide receiver Earl Bennett is questionable after missing the previous three-plus games with a bruised chest.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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