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updated: 8/26/2011 7:11 PM

Bears RB Matt Forte all business despite pending contract extension

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The Matt Forte contract extension is still somewhere between the back and front burners, and it will continue to be a diversion if not a distraction until something is finalized.

But Bears coach Lovie Smith admires the way the fourth-year running back has gone about his business.

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"I think (it's) the (same) way he's done everything since he showed up here the first day dressed in a suit, first day at Halas Hall, just ready to go on a business trip," Smith said. "That's what we've gotten from him. We realize that he has a contract issue going on right now, but he's come to work every day, hasn't missed a beat, hasn't missed a practice. He's handled it well. But that's what you expect from a player like that."

Forte has just 4 carries for 7 yards in the preseason, but he should see more action Saturday.

Going for it:

The new rule moving up kickoffs to the 35 from the 30-yard line has produced kicks that are sailing deep into the end zone, but that's not preventing the Bears from bringing the ball out -- at least in the preseason.

"We're catching the ball 6-7-8 yards deep sometimes," said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. "I told the guys we're going to come out with all kicks; and even punts inside the five. We're coming out with them. We just want to evaluate our return game. During the season it'll change, and it'll change for everybody in the league. I think you're going to see a lot more touchbacks."

Devin Hester, who holds the NFL career record for punt/kickoff-return touchdowns hasn't been used yet, but that should change Saturday.

"We need to get our punt return going," coach Lovie Smith said.

The Bears are averaging a solid 9.0 on punt returns, but Hester led the NFL with a 17.1-yard average last season.

Special attention:

The lack of an off-season probably affected special teams more than offense or defense because of the high turnover rate usually associated with that phase.

Four of last season's top six special teams tacklers are gone. Many of the open spots will go to rookies, but those decisions must wait until final cuts are determined.

"We don't have a starting lineup yet," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "Guys make mistakes, and we find out how they're going to do under pressure."

Toub likes plugging in new players early in preseason games so they have to compete against other teams' top players.

"We have to find out now, and we have to find out quick," he said. "Some of the things we're learning now we probably would have found out during OTAs, so these next two weeks are critical for those young players."

Johnny on the spot:

Quarterback Jay Cutler believes that wide receiver Johnny Knox will have a significant impact on the offense whether he's in the starting lineup or not. He's currently playing behind Roy Williams.

"I've talked to Johnny, and I think he's OK," Cutler said. "He understands what's going on. I think Johnny is confident enough in his abilities and his status on this team that he's not that worried.

"We know what Johnny can do out there. He's going to be a guy who's going to come in there and provide valuable minutes and make big catches for us. I don't think anyone in this building is really concerned about Johnny and his ability to play in this offense or his ability to play on Sundays."

Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @Bob LeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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