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Forte, Jones welcome competition for Bears' running back job

Running backs Matt Forte and Kevin Jones both have something to prove. Much like the Bears' offense.

Despite being a second-round pick, Forte has spent the bulk of his career trying to show he deserves recognition. On the other hand, Jones found early NFL success with the Lions only to be released by the team this offseason.

Now, along with Adrian Peterson, the pair is being counted on to help rejuvenate the running game in Chicago.

A tale of two seasons


The Bears hope the duo of Kevin Jones and Matt Forte can turn around a sagging running game that saw its production drop significantly last season from the 2006 Super Bowl team:

           2006                                   2007

» Carries: 503                        » Carries: 423

» Rush Yards: 1,918              » Rush yards: 1,330

» Touchdowns: 14                » Touchdowns: 8

Forte has been battling expectations -- or rather a lack of -- since his high school days. The Louisiana native was ignored by SEC schools even though he amassed more than 3,000 total yards as a Slidell High senior. Instead of recruiting trips to Baton Rouge, Fayetteville or Oxford, he received one scholarship offer from a Division I program -- Tulane -- and offers from Division I-AA schools McNeese State and Northwestern State.

Forte hopes to emulate the success of one of his childhood idols, Marshall Faulk, another Louisiana kid who was snubbed by the SEC schools but found success at a mid-major college (San Diego State) and then went onto stardom in the NFL.

"Everybody kind of underrates you," Forte told during a recent visit to the NFL Network in Culver City, Calif. "I was underrated coming out of high school, too, and going to Tulane. I rushed for 2,000 yards last season, but they say, 'Oh, he's at Conference USA, he played at Tulane.' I have a lot to prove."

Forte followed in the footsteps of his father, Gene, who played at Tulane from 1975-77. Forte found immediate success with the Green Wave, being selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

He became a YouTube sensation during his senior season and was on numerous Heisman watch lists. He set a school record with 38 rushing touchdowns and ranks second all-time with 4,145 rushing yards. He became only the 11th player in NCAA Division I history to surpass 2,000 rushing yards in a season (2,127). He also tied a single-season NCAA rushing record with five 200-yard rushing games, joining Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders and Jamario Thomas.

While the Bears selected Forte to push Cedric Benson, the rookie will now compete with Jones for carries. The Bears released Benson, a 2005 first-round pick, following multiple arrests.

A first-round pick in 2004, Jones rushed for 1,133 yards as a rookie. However, his production dropped as he suffered a Lisfranc fracture of his left foot in 2006 and tore his ACL at the end of 2007. After battling injuries the past two seasons, the Lions released Jones in March because of durability concerns and a large contract.

Ten questions

You have questions and we have the answers. Bears running backs Kevin Jones and Matt Forte were recently in the NFL Network offices and took a moment to sit down with editor Adam Rank to answer 10 questions (or so).

Kevin Jones
Height: 6-0

Weight: 228

College: Virginia Tech

Experience: Four

Matt Forte
Height: 6-2

Weight: 222

College: Tulane

Experience: Rookie

Jones admits that it was tough to go through rehabilitation with no team to play for. A couple of teams showed interest in Jones, but he showed patience and waited for the right opportunity.

"(The Bears) were the first team my agent and I talked about after getting released," said Jones. "You don't want bad things to happen to people. But sometimes when a door closes for somebody, it opens for somebody else."

Forte and Jones both insist that there will be no animosity or awkwardness as they battle with Peterson for depth-chart positioning in training camp.

"Competition breeds success," Forte said. "It's only going to make everybody better if they are being pushed by somebody else. So it's a good thing. You can learn from everybody. Especially a guy who has been in the league for a few years. I'm going to learn some things from Kevin. Hopefully we both will be able to help out the running game."

Helping a younger player isn't unfamiliar territory for Jones. The Lions took running back Brian Calhoun in the third round of the 2006 draft.

"It was awkward when you hear that they (the Lions) drafted a running back," Jones said. "But (Calhoun) was a cool guy. When it's good people, you don't mind helping him out and telling them what they need to do.

"I look at it like he's there and I'm coming in," Jones said of Forte. "They drafted him in the second round. It's just an open competition and with open arms, I welcome it. It brings out the best (in) a player when you have another guy next to you and you know that if you don't do your job he is going to be the one doing your job."

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