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Wolfe, Bell could be in fight for one roster spot
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/18/2010 12:00 AM

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BOURBONNAIS - Deciding on how many running backs to keep on the final roster may be one of the most difficult decisions for Bears coaches this year.

Garrett Wolfe and Kahlil Bell have shown they will produce when given the chance.

But since Chester Taylor was brought in to complement and compete with starter Matt Forte, playing time behind them might be scarce.

However with Taylor nursing a sore hamstring, Bell and Wolfe both got extra work at Tuesday night's practice.

But the tough question remains: Do the Bears need both Wolfe and Bell?

Last season they kept four running backs, but one was fullback Jason McKie, and they're likely to keep one fullback again this year.

"It kind of depends on the flavor of what we really need and what we really want," said running backs coach Tim Spencer. "Kahlil is a stronger inside runner. But Garrett, we can get him on the flank and we can do a few more things."

Bell doesn't possess great speed, but his 72-yard run last year on his first carry in the NFL was the longest of the Bears' season and longest by a rookie in franchise history.

"He's a good inside runner, between the tackles, and he can get outside," Spencer said. "He has enough quickness. He doesn't have the long speed like a couple of our guys. But he does have very good quickness.

"If he gets caught (after 72 yards), so what? Seventy-two yards we'll take."

Wolfe has unique speed and quickness, which is imperative for a 5-foot-7, 185-pound NFL player.

He also brings the added dimension of being a standout special-teams player, where he had 8 solo tackles last year (fifth best on the team) even though he played just eight games before a lacerated kidney ended his season.

"I most definitely bring something different," Wolfe said. "I'm smaller than everybody, but I'm quick and fast. I think I create a major matchup problem, as do some of our other guys.

"We have a very talented group of guys that can do a multitude of things. But at the end of the day I still feel like I'm different, and I think it kind of stands out."

While Wolfe was a third-round pick out of Northern Illinois in 2007, Bell went undrafted out of UCLA last year and was signed to the Bears' practice squad after the Vikings cut him.

At 5-11 and 212 pounds, Bell has a good blend of quickness, speed and strength.

"The trademark of my career has been my ability to make one cut and get upfield," he said. "I'm not really an elusive-type guy.

"I can make people miss, but I think the mark of a good back is how many yards he makes after first contact. I think that's where I've excelled through my career is being able to shake off the first tackler and drag a couple guys for some extra yards.

"I've found that what works for me is putting my foot in the ground and getting upfield as fast as I can and if there's a guy in my way make him pay. If not, then I get to the second level."

Even though they may be competing for just one spot, Bell doesn't see it as head-to-head competition. It's possible both will make the final cut if they convince coaches they will make the Bears a better team.

"My challenge is not Garrett Wolfe," Bell said. "My challenge is Kahlil Bell. No matter where I've been there's always been somebody in front of me."

And there always has been someone telling Wolfe he's too small to play football, since back when he was at Holy Cross High School in near West suburban River Grove, where he rushed for 4,311 yards and 56 touchdowns in his final two seasons.

"According to popular opinion," Wolfe said, "I'm not supposed to be here anyway."

But Wolfe has a lot of experience at changing opinions.