The Bears continue to say the plan is to reduce the workload for running back Matt Forte this season after he was fourth in the league with 316 carries last season, averaging 19.8 per game. It was not just the carries--Forte was on the field a lot. He averaged being on the sideline less than 10 plays per game, a pretty remarkable number for a rookie. More on the playing time statistics in a little bit.
Veteran Kevin Jones said more playing time was not the primary factor in his decision to turn down an offer from the Buffalo Bills and return, but it did come up in the conversation.
"We definitely want him to be more involved and we told him that,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's a good football player. Last year he came in and he was coming off that knee and he came into camp and he wasn't in the best of shape. His knee wasn't 100 percent. Now, he's a year removed from knee surgery, he's had a year in our system. He's looking great out here. He looks totally different. He's quicker. He looks more confident in himself and in our offense. He looks really good."
Jones didn't come on board until July last year and that meant Forte was ahead of him in terms of learning the playbook. He will not be behind this time, and one of the things he's trying to prove to Turner is that he can catch the ball. That's one thing Forte did well. He led all running backs in the league with 63 receptions, setting a Bears' record for catches by a rookie at the same time.
"Kevin doesn't want to be a guy that is just back there to run it,'' Turner said. ``He already told me, `I got 61 one year.' I said, `I know, Kevin.' He said he was just reminding me. We wanted to get him in more than we did and it was just a matter of comfort level. We had more confidence in Matt. He's got an offseason now. We need to get Matt off the field and Matt will be a better player because of it.''
That's the interesting thing. Turner believes Forte can be more effective if he's more rested. Here is how the playing time broke down in 2009:
Matt Forte 850 of 1,012 offensive plays, 83.99 percent
Adrian Peterson 71 of 1,012, 7.02 percent
Kevin Jones 64 of 1,012, 6.32 percent
Garrett Wolfe 27 of 1,012, 2.67 percent
The Bears need to find a way to get Wolfe more involved also. What's a good percentage for Forte? They will figure that out as they go but we doubt it would dip below 75 percent and certainly not below 70. Stay tuned.