It appears the Bears have settled on a new kick returner, while the Panthers had one of their key offensive players return to practice on Thursday. Get the latest info to come out of both camps.
CB Jerry Azumah, who has been nagged by a chronic hip injury, will play his usual nickel corner spot but is expected to be replaced by Rashied Davis on kickoff returns.
RB Adrian Peterson is expected to be the Bears' No. 2 behind Thomas Jones Sunday, even though first-round pick Cedric Benson is fully recovered from a sprained knee suffered nine weeks ago.
RG Terrence Metcalf, who will be an unrestricted free agent, will not play Sunday and will be replaced by Roberto Garza, who has started seven games this season, four at left guard and three at right guard, with no discernible difference in production from the starters.
ORT Fred Miller has played in eight postseason games, the most of any Bear. He's also the only member of the team with a Super Bowl ring, which he won with the St. Louis Rams in 1999.
S Brandon McGowan, who started the last three games of the season when Mike Brown was hurt, will have surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. He hopes, optimistically, to be back in six months.
G Tutan Reyes practiced on Thursday and was upgraded to probable. Expect him to be ready for the Bears.
LB Will Witherspoon, the team's leading tackler this season, remains optimistic he will re-sign with the Panthers in the off-season.
RB DeShaun Foster practiced on Thursday and was upgraded to probable for Sunday's game. He will start against the Bears.
He's due to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Witherspoon knows the Panthers won't be able to re-sign everyone, but when asked if he thinks a deal will eventually get done, he said, "I do."
Said Witherspoon: "You've got to have faith in it. Worst-case scenario if it doesn't, so be it. Hopefully that's not the case. We've got nothing but the entire off-season to look forward to and to figure it all out."
It' worth keeping an eye on what kind of deal Witherspoon gets because Lance Briggs is only a year away from free agency. A big money deal for Witherspoon will give Briggs even more negotiating power when it comes to getting an extension from the Bears.
FB Brad Hoover missed a second straight day of work due to an ankle injury. Hoover has been generally beat up this season, but it would take a minor miracle to keep him out.
LB Brandon Short was upgraded to probable with a knee injury and will start Sunday.
WR Ricky Proehl remains probable with a stomach bug that has hit the Charlotte area hard in recent weeks.