Chicago Sun-Times

Closer look at backup running backs

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MTV could have gotten some solid ratings if they had done a reality show on the Bears running backs this week.

Matt Forte is still looking for a contract extension.

Chester Taylor is trying to make sense of a wacky week.

And Marion Barber is nursing a calf injury.

Then, fittingly, Thursday night stuck to the theme.

Kahlil Bell left the game with an ankle injury, and unheralded rookie Robert Hughes emerged from the shadows with a strong performance.

So where do things stand?

I certainly don't know for sure. But here's my assessment of the situation.

Forte told me he's going to play in the season opener, regardless of whether he gets a contract extension or not.

The indications I've gotten on Barber is that his injury isn't serous.

Bell did leave the game but it seemed more precautionary than anything else.

"I feel good," Bell said. "We got a couple of days to rest."

Bell didn't have a great game Thursday (he had eight carries for 26 yards), but he was strong in the previous preseason games, and he's an asset on special teams -- something that distinguishes him from Barber or Taylor.

"Since I've been here, there's always been somebody else who was supposed to be here and I wasn't," Bell said of his roster standing. "But, at the same time, I'm still here, and until otherwise proven, I'm going to be here."

Indications remain that Taylor will not be a Bear after Saturday, whether via a trade or release.

But Taylor was nothing but professional in his post-game comments.

Asked if he's been disappointed by how he's been used, especially after signing a four-year, $12.5 million contract last year, Taylor said, "I'm not disappointed.

"I mean, the coaches are going to play me however they see fit. I mean, whatever they want me to do, I'm just going to do."

Asked if Thursday was awkward, given his strange week, Taylor said, "No, it wasn't awkward.

"I knew it was going to play today. That's all that matters. I just tried to do my best today."

Taylor said he doesn't know his status, adding "it's not my decision.

"You got to ask them."

But, Taylor did acknowledge that he appreciated getting more of an opportunity to play. In the first two preseason games, he got three carries in each. Then, he didn't play last weekend in Nashville.

So did he get a chance to show the Bears what he could do?

"I believe tonight I did," he said. "But, the other couple games, I only had three carries, so it wasn't too much I could do then. But I believe tonight I did."

While he may not make the final roster, the clear winner of Thursday night, among the Bears running backs, was Hughes.

The former Notre Dame standout finished with a game-high 16 carries for 69 yards, including two touchdowns, as well as two catches for 26 yards.

"It felt great," Hughes said. "It's just a great feeling cause I was in there with some of the guys who are in similar positions. It was great because it was a great moment for everybody on the team."

Hughes, if nothing else, certainly would seem at least a fit for the Bears practice squad, although another club could be impressed by his film from Thursday night.

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Is what he said true? Is he willing to "do whatever they want me to do"?

If that is the case, why didn't they ask him to play on some special teams? Or did they?

If Taylor had some value at special teams this is a different conversation. I get that he is a veteran, but he's there, dressed up in a shiny uniform with pads and drawing a check. Why not?

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on September 2, 2011 12:04 AM.

What to watch in Bears' preseason finale was the previous entry in this blog.

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