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updated: 8/2/2014 10:35 PM

Giving Forte a breather easier said than done

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  • Defensive back Kyle Fuller chases down running back Matt Forte at Chicago Bears minicamp Wednesday at the Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest.

      Defensive back Kyle Fuller chases down running back Matt Forte at Chicago Bears minicamp Wednesday at the Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

As much as the coaching staff wants to avoid overusing running back Matt Forte, it's sometimes difficult to take the ball out of his hands.

Last season's backup, Michael Bush, who was released in the off-season, got just 67 touches, while Forte had 363. Fourth-round draft pick Ka'Deem Carey, second-year man Michael Ford, veteran Shaun Draughn, and undrafted rookies Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry are all competing for backup jobs behind Forte. But it's unlikely any of them will get much work.

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"He's a three-down back," coach Marc Trestman said of Forte. "He's a multipurpose back. There are times when we go into the game and say we're going to give Matt a blow at this time and that time. And then the situation comes up, and you look around, and who would you rather have out there than Matt Forte?

"And so he stays in."

Going back to his rookie year of 2008, when Forte had 379 touches and his top backup, Kevin Jones, had 36, no Bears running back has ever had close to half as many touches as Forte in any season.

And the former second-round pick from Tulane shows no signs of slowing down. Every training camp he seems to arrive more chiseled than the year before.

"He's as highly conditioned of an athlete as you could ever be around," Trestman said. "His training level is remarkable, certainly at the elite level. We hope to have an opportunity to give him a breather and get him through the season healthy."

Backup plan:

Quarterback Jay Cutler has missed 12 starts in the previous three years because of injuries, making it a good bet that someone other than the No. 1 guy will start games this year for the Bears.

Could rookie David Fales, a sixth-round pick from San Jose State, wind up as the top backup?

The short answer is: "No." But that decision doesn't have to be made for a while.

"I couldn't even begin to start a depth chart yet," quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh said. "But David has learned the verbiage really well. He can hear it, he can get a visual of it, and he can call it in the huddle and not miss a beat just like the other guys (veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer).

"That's the sign that the guy's smart and understands football because you really have to be able to visualize with this verbiage to know what the play is. And then beyond that he's an accurate passer."

No one will ever equate Fales' arm strength to Cutler's, but Cavanaugh said he can compensate in other ways.

"He's been knocked about not having great arm strength, but there are a whole lot of guys who've played this game who didn't have great arm strength," Cavanaugh said. "If you're a good decision-maker, and you're accurate, and you're smart, then you've got a chance to play, and we're excited about him."

At Long last:

After missing the first seven training camp practices because of the effects of a viral infection, guard Kyle Long was in uniform at Saturday night's practice at Soldier Field.

The second-year guard, who started all 16 games as a rookie, participated in individual drills but not in any team activities such as 11-on-11 work. Canadian Football League import Michael Ola took Long's right guard spot with the ones.

Afterward, Long said he expected to practice Monday when the Bears return to Bourbonnais for a 3 p.m. practice, but he wasn't sure to what extent he'd participate.

"I'm not sure what the plan is," Long said. "I just know we'll make more progress on Monday."

Sitting it out:

Defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (both veteran's day off), cornerback Tim Jennings (quad), guard/tackle Eben Britton (left hamstring), running back Shaun Draughn (excused absence) and safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) did not practice Saturday night.

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