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Will The Bears' Matt Forte Return To His Rookie Year Form?

Mike Mulligan of the Sun-Times examines how far Matt Forte has fallen, and how Forte believes he can come back:

‘’I don’t play fantasy football,‘’ said Forte, who nonetheless is aware he disappointed a lot of people who do by following his 2008 rookie season with a sophomore slump. ’’I just worry about playing regular football, just going out there and trying to win games.’’

One thing Forte isn’t worried about these days is his starting job, despite the fact the team paid $7 million in guaranteed money on Chester Taylor’s four-year, $12.5 million deal. Forte remains entrenched as the starter, with Taylor expected to get plenty of chances. Coach Lovie Smith knows how well a two-back system can work. Pushed by Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones helped key a trip to the Super Bowl in Smith’s contract year of 2006.

Then, of course, the Bears let Jones go and kept Benson, a major mistake. But last year, Forte’s slump may have been partly due to injury:

Forte battled injuries after his rookie season, first suffering what he described as ‘’a torn hamstring’’ last offseason, then spraining a medial collateral ligament in Week 3. His numbers fell off considerably to 929 rushing yards and 1,400 yards from scrimmage, and he ended up with 315 touches. In fairness to the Bears, they lost backup Kevin Jones for the year.

‘’You do what you have to do at the time to win games,’’ said Smith, who doesn’t believe Forte was overused as a rookie. ‘’We have him now and we have a backup we feel comfortable playing, so we don’t think that will be an issue.’’

Forte said he’s in the best shape of his career and feels great. His explosion is back; he’s able to hit top speed and make his patented one-cut moves on a dime.

The Bears will need that part of their offense to help make the passing game under Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.