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Either I missed the story online that is in Saturday's print edition, or somewhere it got lost in the shuffle on the World Wide Web. So here is the unedited version of the story that is or was to be printed in Saturday's paper:

The Bears are going to have to evaluate one of the first goals of their offseason after discovering Friday running back Kevin Jones will miss the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle.

Jones, who they were featuring Thursday against Cleveland at Soldier Field to get a little extra work in before the regular season begins, jumped into the air along the sideline and when he landed on his left foot it buckled. An MRI revealed the damage and he will undergo surgery next week. Rehabilitation is expected to take 10 months, but Jones proved he was a quick healer when he came back from a torn ACL in his right knee last summer.

While he was a luxury addition last year, Jones was headed for an expanded role as Matt Forte's primary backup when he returned with a $3.5 million, two-year contract. Adrian Peterson might have been on the bubble to make the club and now he's a lock for the 53-man roster when it's officially announced later today along with Garrett Wolfe. The Bears could seek a free agent but word around the league was they are content to roll with three backs for now.

``We were anxious to give him a lot of carries and see where he was,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``I feel bad for him. He's had a good training camp and I know he was looking forward to getting a chance to make some plays and was excited about playing. You hate to see it.''

The question is whether or not Forte will get off the field. He rarely did last season, participating in 84 percent of the club's offensive snaps, the highest figure for a back in the league. Forte was third in the NFL with 316 rushes, and when you add in 63 receptions, he had 379 touches, most for the Bears since Walter Payton had 434 in 1984. Turner talked on multiple occasions last season about working in others, and the danger now is it will be all talk again. Forte was dogged by a toe injury late last season and the workload wore on him a little bit on his way to setting a rookie franchise record with 1,238 yards.

``It's tough,'' Forte said. ``A.P. has been playing, this is his eighth year, he knows what he's doing too. We've got Garrett too. We don't have any issues with that. We're real confident with both of them getting in the game.''

Running back Kevin Jones suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle in the first quarter of Thursday night's game at Soldier Field.

Jones has been informed that he will require surgery to repair the injury, and the rehabilitation process will take up to 10 months.

This means the veteran will be out for this season.

I've spent four weeks here analyzing some of the things I'll be looking when when the whistle blows at 3 p.m. Friday and the Bears get rolling with their first practice of the season. Now it's time to turn over some space to the trained eye of Tom Thayer, who lists his occupation on his IRS paperwork every April as a "football describer.''

Thayer, the color analyst for WBBM-780 AM, will be at training camp and will offer daily updates for the Bears' flagship station. Here is what Thayer offered:

"There are three things I will be looking at and one of them is the free agents, the newcomers, [Jay] Cutler, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], [Orlando] Pace, big Frank [Omiyale], [Kevin] Shaffer, [Josh] Bullocks, these guys that came in. I want to start looking at those guys and see if they really are what they are, if they're going to fit in, what they're going to do to the team and how they're changing it. Then, I have a key selection of veterans who have been here already who are on the roster who I really want to pay attention to to see if they re-emerge, if they're playing like they did last year, if they're not involved in the betterment of the football team the way they should be due to their position on the roster and with the team and all that. My guys here are [Nathan] Vasher, [Brian] Urlacher, Tommie [Harris], Kevin Jones, Wale [Ogunleye], Nick Roach.

"And then [Johnny] Knox, [Juaquin] Iglesias and D.J. Moore are some rookies I want to watch. I think Moore may have a place. He is one of the three guys of the rooks I am looking at who may need to come in and just provide interest. Just to see if they can help in any way. There is a specific group and positioning of players that I am interested in looking at first. Then I think if you are looking at a position specifically, I still have concerns about the safety position. I like Kevin Payne but there is a battle for all other interior defensive back positions. Payne is only going to be pushed by himself. He is a guy who has to stay healthy. You can go out there and Kevin Payne can show flashes of brilliance and then he can pop his head in there and come out, get dinged, and you're back to square one. My only issue with Kevin Payne is durability.''

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Back to offense as we make our way through the positions on our way to training camp. Let's look at what the Bears have at running back. Fullback will follow later in the week.

Projected starter: Matt Forte, 6-2, 218 pounds, 2nd year, Tulane

Others

Kevin Jones, 6-0, 225, 6th year, Virginia Tech
Adrian Peterson, 5-10, 212, 7th year, Georgia Southern
Garrett Wolfe, 5-7, 185, 3rd year, Northern Illinois

Projected depth chart

Forte, Jones, Wolfe, Peterson

2009 salary cap numbers

Matt Forte $773,533
Kevin Jones $1,750,000
Adrian Peterson $770,000
Garrett Wolfe $620,825

Number of running backs on 2008 roster at start of the season:
4

Projected number of defensive ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3 or 4

The skinny: The Bears return the same bunch from 2008 with the hope that it will be even more productive. Forte had the most impressive rookie season in franchise history and now that Jones is 1 1/2 years removed from his ACL reconstruction, the belief is he will become a substantial contributor on offense. Jones also knows the offense now and the Bears outbid Buffalo for his services, the first of two players the Bears beat the Bills to this offseason. They later plucked linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa off the street despite overtures from Buffalo. Forte led all NFL running backs in receptions last season and while that's impressive, it's not exactly the sign of a healthy offense. Our bet is the Bears hope Forte doesn't lead the team in receptions again this season. He needs to improve his yards per carry of 3.9, and with a re-tooled offensive line and a new quarterback in Jay Cutler, there's ample reason to believe that can and will happen. He was fourth in the league with 316 carries last season and he simply dominated the playing time at the position. Forte was on the field for nearly 84 percent of the offensive snaps last season, a remarkable figure. The Bears have said they want to spread the action out more this season, and there's no doubt Jones is hoping they do just that. Forte needs to improve in short-yardage situations. He's an upright runner and that makes him an easier target. That takes care of the top two. There will be an interesting competition for the No. 3 job and it will not be settled by their play in the backfield alone. Wolfe and Peterson are both mainstays on special teams and Wolfe led the team with 21 tackles last season despite playing in only 13 games. Durability is going to be a concern with him at his size and Peterson wasn't as good as he has been in the past. Making this a numbers crunch is the presence of tight end Michael Gaines. If Gaines and second-year tight end Kellen Davis both make the roster, the squeeze figures to happen right here. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has yet to find a role for Wolfe on offense even though the team has stated it would like to do just that. Peterson is what he is, a guy who can come off the bench and pick up what is blocked for him. Keep an eye on how they're being used in training camp and preseason. Four tight ends would likely spell only three running backs and then the Bears would likely find a back for the practice squad.

The upside: The upside would be Forte repeats with another 1,200-yard season and Jones tops 500 yards as a guy who gets close to one-third of the playing time.

Thought it would be interesting to turn back the clock a year and look at some of the storylines surrounding the Bears at that time and how they turned out.

We ran a list of 10 issues facing the organization entering training camp in the print edition last July. We'll include a short synopsis of each one.

1. QB derby. Amid swirling rumors that the Bears may have interest in Chris Simms as a No. 3 quarterback, we still don't know who the No. 1 will be. Leave it to the Bears to do this.

ONE YEAR LATER: What a difference that one year makes. The addition of Jay Cutler via trade with the Denver Broncos makes this the most-anticipated training camp in years. While quarterback carousels dominated camp news in the past the hope is that Cutler will lock down the position for close to a decade. That doesn't mean Cutler won't be a daily storyline in camp. Prepare for QB stories written every which way.

2. Defense first. The Bears plummeted to 28th in team defense last season and it's yet to be determined if it was an injury-induced aberration, or a signal that Bob Babich could be on the hot seat.

ONE YEAR LATER: That defense didn't perform a whole lot better in 2008 and injuries were not reason to blame. Babich has effectively been demoted and Lovie Smith will now call the plays on defense. This remains a valid question moving into 2009. Can the Bears' defense return to championship form? The Bears have tried changing players, they've invested heavily in many players and they've certainly shuffled through an inordinate number of coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Next to come under real fire could be the defensive scheme if things don't change. Rod Marinelli represents the fourth line coaching for Smith entering his sixth season as head coach. Babich will be the third linebackers coach in as many seasons. Jon Hoke becomes the fourth secondary coach.

3. Face of the franchise. This could all of a sudden become the No. 1 storyline if Brian Urlacher's ongoing contract squabble blows up. Even if he isn't in camp--and who knows what the chances are for this--he'll be game ready come the regular season because he's a workout warrior. Some have been concerned about a decline in play because he didn't make the Pro Bowl, but at the end of last season Urlacher was playing as well as any defensive player in the league.

ONE YEAR LATER: Urlacher's contract demands were met with an $18 million, one-year extension but Cutler could fast become the face of the franchise. Now two years removed from the Pro Bowl, Urlacher is being paid like an elite player. Perhaps he will benefit from Smith running the defense.

4. Line dance. None of the other rebuilding phases on offense will be particularly successful if the overhauled line doesn't mesh. Rookie Chris Williams will be the key and his development in the coming weeks at left tackle is critical.

ONE YEAR LATER: The Bears managed to do fine on the line last season and Williams had nothing to do with the success. Line coach Harry Hiestand has quietly done a terrific job for several seasons and there's another rebuilding project in the works that finds Williams on the right side this time. The key this time around could be keeping left tackle Orlando Pace healthy but the emergence of Williams is essential not just for this season but for the longterm. The good thing is the Bears have plenty of depth here.

5. Born to run. There certainly won't be a distraction this summer with Cedric Benson having to answer a myriad of questions unrelated to his failed efforts to live up to his status as the fourth pick in the '05 draft. Matt Forte certainly won't be under pressure to exceed Benson's production. It's about replacing Thomas Jones, remember him? Forte is a gifted runner who the Bears believe is a first-round talent.

ONE YEAR LATER: The Bears were on the money when they said Forte was a first-round talent. Preserving him will be key this season as he wore down by season's end. Forte can be one of the top backs in the league while still sharing some of the work with a rejuvenated Kevin Jones.

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Need proof the NFL is a year-round business? We've got plenty of football news moving toward mid-June with training camp less than eight weeks away. We're going to get to a Four Down Territory Q&A on Monday, so if you have any last-minute questions to submit, get them in. Let's cover seven issues here in a hurry-up offense:

1. General manager Jerry Angelo addressed the health of former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris last week on the team's Web site. Harris has done occasional on-field work in the voluntary offseason workout program. When media was allowed at Halas Hall last Wednesday, Harris participated in positional drills.

"There's no major concern with him,'' Angelo said. "He's going to be up and going at some point here in the OTA's. We feel good about where he's at medically. There's nothing to be alarmed about. This is the offseason. We want to make sure that we take care of our players to the best of our ability and we're always going to err on the side of caution in the offseason. He's got an issue with his knee; we know that. He has to be smart about it, which he is. We've got to be smart about it, which we are. Is his knee pristine? No. it's not. But it's not something that he can't perform well with. We've been real smart about how to bring Tommie along in terms of his training program. He's not the only player. There are customized programs for most of our players because we don't want the wear and tear to happen during the offseason. We just want to be smart about how we bring our players along. We don't want to waste any mileage that players have in the offseason. The wear and tear comes during the season, not the offseason. The offseason is dedicated to conditioning, strengthening and training our players within our offensive and defensive schemes."

OUR SPIN: Look for Harris' work in training camp to be monitored closely and he could see limited action in preseason too. In the past, coach Lovie Smith has kept him off artificial surfaces in preseason and the Bears open the preseason at Buffalo, which uses an AstroPlay field at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bears are counting on big things from Harris after paying him a $6.67 million roster bonus and they're going to preserve him for when it matters most. The next big payoff in Harris' deal is a $2.5 million roster bonus due June 1, 2010. The club would like his balky left knee to be no worse for the wear then. We wrote it here a while back, don't look for players with questionable injury concerns to land rich deals from the Bears again, not after Angelo's comments about closely scrutinizing medical records when it comes to draft picks.


2. ESPN's Sal Paolontonio
reports that the lawyer for wide receiver Plaxico Burress is maneuvering behind the scenes in efforts to reach a plea deal before Burress' next court appearance in New York on June 15.

"Three teams are believed to be serious enough about considering Burress for the 2009 season that they have contacted his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to inquire about his legal status: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets."

OUR SPIN: The Jets and Bucs both had interest in landing quarterback Jay Cutler. Could the Bears beat them to the quarterback and the wide receiver? Obviously, Burress' legal situation needs to be ironed out before anyone is going to offer him a contract, but that process could happen sooner rather than later. He's still likely to face a suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell. How many games Burress would get is anyone's guess. Ex-Bear Tank Johnson received an eight-game suspension following the 2006 season after the raid on his Gurnee home. There was a provision in that suspension that allowed Johnson to be re-instated after six games. Remember, though, Johnson had a previous weapons arrest during his Bears' career. He was busted outside a downtown nightclub for having a weapon in his vehicle.


Fact or fiction? Jay Cutler had no running game last season in Denver.

Reading through comments left here over the last few days, it looks like the widely held opinion is that the Broncos were running in the slow lane in 2008, you know, when Cutler wasn't chucking it.

"Cutler had arguably the least effective running attack in the league."

"Cutler had NO running game."

"His running game was putrid."

"Denver had no running game. ..."

The Broncos' running game might have failed them in crunch time and you probably needed a program to sort out the backfield as a total of eight running backs were placed on injured reserve. But to say Denver had no running game would be fiction.

In fact, the Broncos had a much more successful rushing attack than the Bears did last season when Matt Forte rushed for a franchise rookie record 1,238 yards. Sure, it's easy to twist a lot of statistics any way you want, but these are pretty back and white.

Denver ranked 12th in the league rushing, finishing with 1,862 yards.

The Bears were 24th with 1,673 yards.

Denver was tied for second in the league averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

The Bears were tied for 26th in YPC at 3.9.

We documented here how poor the Bears were in short-yardage rushing situations last season. It includes a breakdown of the Broncos and they were more efficient.

Spin away. Just don't say Cutler didn't have a running game to work with last season. What he didn't have was a consistent running back to work with as injuries decimated the position. Forte had 72.8 percent of the Bears' carries. Here is how the Broncos broke down:

Lots of good information came out of the OTA on Wednesday at Halas Hall. The Bears wrapped up things with another practice this afternoon that was closed to the media. Let's get right into the mailbag.

Q: The Bears seem to have many question marks entering the season including: How will Jay Cutler adjust to the Bears and will he have enough to back him up should he get injured? Will the receivers step up? Will the offensive tackles stay healthy? Can Kevin Jones be a productive backup? Will the defensive line get pressure on the quarterback? Are the defensive backs talented and healthy enough to fill all four spots? I feel most of these things have a pretty good chance of happening. My question then is this: Could you rank these question marks from most to least likely to happen this year?

Nik B., Indianapolis

A: There may be some question marks but certainly this team looks much better than it did in January. It's interesting because there was no buzz or enthusiasm when the team gathered for minicamp in mid-March. When minicamp is within six weeks or so of the Super Bowl, that's understandable. There was real electricity to the OTA on Wednesday, the kind of vibe you're used to getting in training camp. Let's take a look at these issues.

1. Will the defensive line get pressure on the quarterback?

This is far and away the most legitimate and biggest concern on your list. The Bears struggled generating any pressure with the front four last season and that led them to blitz more than any team in the league. They're banking on defensive line coach Rod Marinelli providing a major upgrade. Without an improved pass rush, this defense will struggle to crack the top half of the league.

2. Will the receivers step up?

The team's optimism is based on the success Cutler had with young receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal in Denver. Keep in mind the tight ends and running back Matt Forte will play a big role in the passing game as a whole. But, yes, they have to get greatly increased production from the wide receivers.

3. Will the offensive tackles stay healthy?

That's a fair question but a lot of teams are going to be in a bind if one of their tackles goes down, especially the left tackle. Orlando Pace has battled injuries the last three seasons but he played in 14 games last year. Chris Williams will have to play a full season to prove his back is not an issue. The good news for the Bears is they have a veteran backup in place in Kevin Shaffer and some view Frank Omiyale's best position as tackle. So there are alternatives on the roster.

4. Are the defensive backs talented and healthy enough to fill all four spots?

Charles Tillman remains sidelined as he recovers from shoulder surgery. He will be full go well before training camp. This unit should be OK. For the defense to improve, it has to generate a pass rush.

5. Can Kevin Jones be a productive backup?

We wrote on Wednesday that Jones looked fluid running around. Remember, he was still working his way back from ACL reconstruction at this time a year ago. He could be poised to carry the ball 100 times this season.

6. Will [Cutler] have enough to back him up should he get injured?

What team is in good position if it's starter goes down? It would have made sense to us if the team had pursued Byron Leftwich when he was available but we don't see any names out there right now that make us exclaim, `Yeah, if Cutler goes down the Bears are in good hands with fill-in-the-blank.'' At this point, we're convinced a developed Hanie could be as successful (or unsuccessful) as most of the available options and just might be better.


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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."

Need No. 13--Running back

Players on roster

RB Matt Forte (signed through 2011)
RB Kevin Jones (2010)
RB Garrett Wolfe (2010)
RB Adrian Peterson (2009)

Need

As we wrote Monday, we probably would have moved this down the list a notch or two if we had it to do over again. No draft additions here are going to have a very easy time making the roster, not with Wolfe in place as a guy offensive coordinator Ron Turner needs to work more to get involved before the Bears can actually make a determination as to what they have. Jones figures to be the primary backup, however, after the Bears prevented him from signing with Buffalo by reeling him in with a $3.5 million, two-year contract. Jones disappeared at times last season, so much so that he was inactive on gameday, but never stopped working. It's a credit to him that he went to coach Lovie Smith and asked to be used on special teams, a role he relished and did well in. Jones got excited talking about playing special teams as a freshman at Virginia Tech where Frank Beamer is considered one of the best coaches in the country.

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Here we go again with Four Down Territory. We're going to have one every day this week through Friday so get your questions in. Let's get started.

Q: Does the acquisition of Jay Cutler change the strategy for backup quarterback? Does it increase of decrease the need to sign a veteran?

Terry L. Boulder, Colo.

A: We wrote here on Sunday that nobody finds the backup quarterbacks like the Bears, listing Brian Griese, Jeff Blake and Chris Chandler as examples of solid quarterbacks who arrived at Halas Hall after they had become journeymen. There doesn't look to be a lot left on the scrap heap right now. Did you have someone specific in mind? J.P. Losman, Charlie Frye, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Charlie Batch and Brooks Bollinger are out there. New agent Drew Rosenhaus is shopping Rex Grossman for the minimum. Grossman will not be returning to the Bears. Looks to me like the Bears will stand pat with what they have. If they were comfortable--and Lovie Smith said as much at the combine--with Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez competing for the No. 2 job behind Kyle Orton, why wouldn't they be comfortable with one of those two behind Cutler?

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If it rains like this next week, the Bears will have no chance of practicing outside at Halas Hall for the minicamp. Before we get washed away here, or buried under a pile of safety and receiver questions, let's dive into the mailbag.

Q: Now that the first wave of free agency has passed and the Bears still haven't addressed their need for a starting free safety, do you think there's a chance they might still bring back Mike Brown? Brown seems to be the best option remaining given his knowledge of the defense, and I doubt Jerry Angelo will find someone in the draft that can contribute more, at least in the immediate future.

C. Washington, Kokomo, Ind.

A: This is just one of a handful of inquiries we've had about Brown recently. You're the lucky one to have yours selected.

No, I don't see any way the Bears have a change of heart and reach out to Brown. When they made the decision to move forward and not offer him a contract, that was a clean break. It's one Angelo nearly made a year ago. Yes, Brown had value when he was on the field last season but he's a strong safety and strictly a strong safety. Remember, the coaching staff made that switch to get him closer to the line of scrimmage midway through the season. Brown isn't the answer to their strong safety needs. The second half of the season was also when Brown had trouble finishing out games. You'll recall he couldn't finish three games and then was placed on inured reserve before the season finale at Houston. The Bears were in the playoff hunt. If they felt Brown could help them in the playoffs, he would have remained active. That tells you a little something about what was at least a four-week injury, right?

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