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updated: 9/10/2011 12:34 AM

With Barber out, Bell ready to back up Forte

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  • Bears running back Kahlil Bell is tripped up by Tennessee Titans cornerback LeQuan Lewis in a preseason game. Bell averaged 4.5 yards per carry in the preseason.

      Bears running back Kahlil Bell is tripped up by Tennessee Titans cornerback LeQuan Lewis in a preseason game. Bell averaged 4.5 yards per carry in the preseason.
    Associated Press

  • Bears nose tackle Anthony Adams, right, is finally healthy after recovering from a calf injury. Adams is expected to start on Sunday against Atlanta.

      Bears nose tackle Anthony Adams, right, is finally healthy after recovering from a calf injury. Adams is expected to start on Sunday against Atlanta.

 
 

Marion Barber's calf injury is improving, but he has been ruled out for Sunday's game, leaving Kahlil Bell as the only backup behind Matt Forte, and the third-year player is anxious for the opportunity after being inactive for all 16 games last season.

"Anytime you know for a fact that you're going to get a chance to actually play, you just want to be ready for the opportunity and take advantage of it," said Bell, who led the team in preseason rushing with 157 yards on 35 carries (4.5-yard average). "I've done all the things off the field necessary to be successful on the field. So I'm ready, I'm excited, and when I get the opportunity I'm going to try to do what I've been doing my whole career."

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As a rookie, the 5-foot-11, 219-pound Bell rushed for 220 yards on 40 carries and a 5.5-yard average, which included a 72-yard scamper the first time he touched the ball as a professional.

The 5-foot-11, 218-pound Barber is considered the Bears' best short-yardage option because of his physical style, but Bell is confident he can handle every aspect of the job.

"I feel like I'm an every-down back in the NFL," Bell said. "I can do anything they ask me to do. If they need me to block, I can block. If they need me to get a yard, I can get a yard. If they need me to run pass routes, I can do that. I don't really like to pigeonhole myself as this kind of back or that kind of back. I think I can do it all."

Coach Lovie Smith agrees.

"Kahlil has been in that position before," Smith said. "He's a pro, he's had a good camp. There's a reason why he's on our football team right now. If you're a backup, this is the time that you want. If your number's called, the team expects us to have a running back in that position who can get the job done. If something happens with Matt, it's next guy up."

Money talks:

Based on the $3.25 million that the Bears will pay free-agent safety Brandon Meriweather this year, it's expected that he'll replace Major Wright in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

"He's a good player," Brian Urlacher said. " A Pro Bowler. Obviously, he was on a good team in New England, and he knows what he's doing out there. I'm glad we got him. Our whole defense was pretty excited when we signed him."

Well, maybe not Wright.

His four-year contract is worth $2.64 million, including a $405,000 base salary this year and an $848,000 signing bonus. If he reaches a fourth-year escalator, Wright could collect an additional $1.2 million.

"He's a real smart guy," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said of Meriweather, a first-round draft choice in 2007. "I think he really understands what we're doing, and now it's just (a matter of) doing it. (Assistant defensive backs coach) Gill (Byrd) has been working extremely hard with him. We're trying to get him up to speed as fast as we can."

He earned it:

Defensive end Corey Wootton (knee) and wide receiver Sam Hurd (ankle) were both listed as questionable (50-50 chance of playing) although they were full participants in Friday's practice.

In Wootton's absence, second-year player Nick Reed could see time Sunday as a backup to Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers.

"Nick Reed came in, and we didn't know an awful lot about him," coach Lovie Smith said. "He is a player who has earned a spot on our roster based on what he did in training camp each day, and of course what he did in the (preseason) game finishing up against Cleveland (1 sack, 2 pass breakups, 1 tackle for loss). We feel very comfortable with him."

Healthy and hungry:

Last week nose tackle Anthony Adams described the condition of his calf injury as: "Looking through a glass refrigerator" but unable to partake of the contents.

Now that he's been able to fully participate in practice the past two days, Adams is expected to start on Sunday.

"I can get in there and get a snack," the 6-foot, 310-pound Adams said of the hypothetical refrigerator.

"I can't eat too much. I have to watch my figure a little bit and make sure that my abs are firing at will."

Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @Bob LeGere.

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