BOURBONNAIS – As the Bears pursued dozens of veteran free agents, Matt Forte figured that running back was a position that largely would go untouched.
Forte discovered otherwise this weekend when the Bears signed Marion Barber to a two-year deal.
“I didn’t think we’d sign any running backs,” Forte said Sunday before the team’s second training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University. “But, you know, [we got] another guy.”
How that guy will affect the Bears’ backfield remains to be seen.
The Bears entered training camp with Forte as the clear-cut starter and 10th-year veteran Chester Taylor as the No. 2 option at running back. Forte’s leading role is unlikely to change, but Barber could nudge Taylor down the depth chart (or off the roster) with a strong preseason.
Barber (5-11, 218) is a stout, powerful runner who could be called upon for goal-line carries and other short-yardage situations. He rushed for 47 touchdowns and tallied a half-dozen receiving touchdowns in six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
Forte rushed for six touchdowns in 2010 and has rushed for 18 touchdowns in three seasons. He said he was not sure what was in store for the Bears’ goal-line offense this season.
“We’ll have to see how that goes,” Forte said. “That’s still up to the coaches to figure out what’s up with that. I’ve just got to control what I can control: Just play football.”
Is there enough room for Forte, Barber and Taylor in the backfield?
“I don’t know,” Forte said. “That’s up to the coaches to figure out if there’s room.”
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he was eager for Barber to join the team. Barber will not be able to practice until Thursday, when the NFL’s league year commences.
“You look at his history a little bit,” Smith said. “Tough, hard-nosed runner.”
Taylor (5-11, 208) struggled in short-yardage situations last season after signing a four-year deal with the Bears. He rushed the ball 112 times for 267 yards, averaging 2.4 yards a carry.
Despite the addition of Barber, Taylor said he was not wondering about his role with the team.
“I don’t wonder [anything],” Taylor said. “I just feel like they added more depth in the backfield. Me playing this many years, I know it’s hard having a good backfield throughout the season.
“You’ve got to have depth in the backfield because any running back can go down at any given time.”
Taylor said Barber offered skills that would improve the Bears’ backfield.
“He’s a big back,” Taylor said. “I believe he can help us out on goal-line, short yardage as well. He can just come up and bring that toughness we need and hopefully help us throughout the season when me and Matt wear down.”
Here is a look at the Bears’ running backs 13 days before the preseason opener.
• Matt Forte, 4th year
Forte is waiting for a big contract extension from the Bears, who promised that one was coming.
• Marion Barber, 7th year
Barber averaged 3.3 yards a carry last season, which was much less than his career average (4.2).
• Chester Taylor, 10th year
Taylor figures to suffer the most from the addition of Barber. His job security is tenuous at best.
• Kahlil Bell, 3rd year
Bell has shown glimpses of promise and could fill the role of former running back Garrett Wolfe.
• Eddie Williams, 2nd year; Will Ta’ufo’ou, 1st year; Harvey Unga, 2nd year
It’s tough to see more than one of these players winning a roster spot as a fullback.
• Dan Dierking, 1st year; Robert Hughes, 1st year
Dierking (a Wheaton native) and Hughes (a Chicago native) signed as undrafted free agents.