Defensive end Julius Peppers returned to practice Friday and is expected to play against the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field. But wide receiver Devin Hester did not practice and while coach Lovie Smith said he's ''hopeful' Hester will play against the Lions, he sounded like he was planning on going without him.
''We're confident [even without Hester],'' Smith said. ''You're right -- there's only one Devin Hester. No one has anyone like him. So without him there, we'll just have another very good returner to replace him. We have other guys on our roster who have scored touchdowns in NFL games. So we should be OK.''
Based on that testimony, it's likely that Johnny Knox would replace Hester on kickoff returns and Earl Bennett on punt returns. Knox returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2009. Bennett returned a punt in 2009.
Friday was the first day that Peppers has practiced this week. But Smith didn't seem to think that would be a problem. Peppers was listed as doubtful on a Saturday before the Vikings game, but started and had two sacks.
''He did everything [in practice], so hopefully he'll be able to go to,'' Smith said. ''Friday isn't like a Wednesday practice. But he's a quick healer, as you've seen before. So hopefully he'll be able to go.''
Smith confirmed that right tackle Gabe Carimi had arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee, but he emphasized that it was a ''minor'' procedure. He said it's too early to tell if Carimi will be put on injured reserve.
''I don't know the extent of it,'' Smith said. ''We'll find out a little bit more. I just know right now that he had a minor scope done.''