Kahlil Bell wants to be more than just an NFL running back, and playing behind Matt Forte and Marion Barber, he will have to be.
One of the factors that has allowed Bell to zip past Chester Taylor on the depth chart (unofficially, for now) is his ability to contribute on special teams.
That's a prerequisite for a Bears backup who isn't expected to see much playing time in the offense. And for now, that's fine with Bell.
Like most NFL players, Bell doesn't have an extensive resume as a special-teams player, either at UCLA or Marin Catholic High School in California, where he rushed for 2,292 yards as a senior.
But he's going at it with a simple approach.
"I played a little bit of special teams in college, particularly when I was a freshman and sophomore," he said. "I haven't really done it that much.
"But at the end of the day, it's still football. You've still got to run, block and tackle and catch the ball, or whatever they ask you to do. Whatever they ask me to do is what I'm going to do to the best of my abilities."
The Bears know enough about Bell's ability to carry the ball that they are expected to part ways with the 10-year veteran Taylor by Saturday's final cutdown.
The first time Bell touched the ball as a professional, the 5-foot-11, 219-pounder went 72 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 22, 2009. He played in seven games for the Bears that year and wound up with 220 yards on 40 carries, a 5.5-yard average.
But last year Bell never set foot on the field.
Taylor was in the first year of his four-year, $12.5 million contract, and Garrett Wolfe earned the No. 3 spot, in part because of his excellent special-teams play.
So if Bell needs to be a factor on special teams in order to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, so be it.
"The more you can do, the more valuable you are to any team or any organization," he said. "I definitely want to be a running back, don't get me wrong. I love running the ball. That's what I feel like I was put here to do.
"But, at the same time, if they're asking me to cover a kick or help in punt protection or whatever they ask me to do, anytime I'm out there I'm going to give 100 percent no matter what they ask me to do."
Bell already leads the Bears with 28 rushing attempts and 131 rushing yards in the preseason, and his 4.7-yard average is best among the running backs.
But he's not coasting on his preseason results, and coaches say Taylor will see some action Thursday night in what could be a final chance to keep his roster spot or just a showcase for a possible trade.
"I don't really worry about things like that," Bell said. "I feel like I've done things necessary to prepare myself to be successful when I get an opportunity.
"I'm here, and I'm still loving it, and when I get a shot hopefully I can produce."
Forte is not expected to play Thursday night beyond the first series, and Barber isn't expected to play at all because of a calf injury.
So Bell should see a lot of playing time again, and his goal is to keep getting better and getting noticed.
"I think I've done pretty well," he said. "But as we watch film, you always think you did better than you actually do.
"So there's still a lot of work to be done."
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