Bears running back Garrett Wolfe's career average of 4.1 yards per carry is the best on the team.
Associated Press file
Garrett Wolfe's biggest impact to date has been on special teams.
Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2009
Garrett Wolfe is in his third season with the Bears, yet he remains for the most part an unknown quantity.
A third-round pick out of Northern Illinois in 2007, Wolfe's biggest impact to date has been on special teams, where he led the Bears last year with 21 tackles.
As a running back, though, he has carried the ball just 46 times and caught 9 passes.
At NIU, he had single games where he approached those totals. In NCAA history, only Ed Marinaro, O.J. Simpson and Herschel Walker bettered Wolfe's career average of 156.5 rushing yards per game.
But, at 5-feet-7 and 185 pounds, Wolfe will never be the workhorse in the NFL that he was in Dekalb.
He hasn't been very effective running between the tackles, where he often gets engulfed by bigger bodies.
But his 4.4 speed and rare quickness make him a big-play threat in the right situations, specifically when the Bears can get him the ball in space.
Lip service has been paid in the past to getting Wolfe more involved in the offense. But now, with top backup Kevin Jones out for the season, Wolfe and Adrian Peterson will have to play bigger roles backing up starter Matt Forte.
Wolfe is more ready than he has ever been.
"I think I'm a more intelligent football player," he said. "My understanding of the game, the speed of the game, little nuances to put myself in better situations, those are things that I've picked up."
The Bears could go picking through the NFL scrap heap searching for another experienced backup to replace Jones, but they probably will wait to see if Wolfe and the steady, eight-year veteran Peterson can handle the job.
"We keep all our options open, but three running backs are about all you really need," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You need a backup at every position. We have a backup plus one right now, so we're in pretty good shape as it is.
"(Wolfe and Peterson) have contributed the entire time they have been here. Both are excellent special-teams players. We have a lot of confidence in them."
Both are looking forward to the opportunity that's staring them square in the face.
"I'm very excited for the opportunity, (because of) the way I've prepared throughout my career," Wolfe said.
"The way I've prepared myself for these type of situations - and so has Adrian. The only thing that's changed is just the increased opportunity me and Adrian will have.
"(Running-backs coach) Tim Spencer does a very good job of preparing us for everything that can come. He doesn't just prepare me for my role as a third-down guy; he prepares me for my role as being an every-down guy."
Peterson has played just about every role in the Bears' offense. He has had as few as 6 carries in a season and as many as 151. He caught just 1 pass in 2003 but had 51 receptions in 2007.
His career average of 4.1 yards per carry is the best on the team, including Jones.
Wolfe says that with himself and Peterson the Bears have more than enough depth at running back.
"I remember last year people questioning if a rookie could handle the load, and I think Matt answered that pretty well," Wolfe said. "Granted, I may be a little unproven because of a lack of experience at (the) position at this level. But Adrian's a guy who's done it at this level. Matt's done it.
"I'm unproven doing it at this level. But I think with time everyone will see that I'm more than capable of getting it done."
This year Wolfe finally might get the chance.