Bears' Bell ready to step up with Barber out

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Bears' Bell ready to step up with Barber out

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 1:52 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
He hasnt practiced all week and was restricted to working on his injured calf muscle with medical staff on the sidelines before practice. So it came as no surprise that running back Marion Barber was confirmed as out of Sundays game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The loss of Barber elevates Kahlil Bell to Matt Fortes No. 2 after getting zero carries all of 2010, the year given to Chester Taylor as Fortes backup. Bell was the Bears leading rusher in preseason, playing primarily against backups on opposing defenses but netting 157 yards on 35 carries for an average of 4.5 yards and one TD.

I feel like Ive done the things necessary to prepare myself to be successful when I get an opportunity, Bell said. So Im here, and Im still loving it, and when I get a shot, hopefully I can produce.

Bell played in seven games in 2009, carried 40 times and turned in an impressive 5.5 yards per carry, aided in large part by his 72-yard TD run on his first-ever NFL carry.

Great opportunity, you have to be ready, coach Lovie Smith said. Kahlil has been in this position before. Hes a pro. Hes had a good camp. Theres a reason why hes on our football team right now, and if youre a backup, this is the time that you want. If your number is called, the team expects us to have a running back in that position that can get the job done.

Bell put himself through a grueling offseason regimen that included running repeated sprints up a long, steep hill in the tradition created by Walter Payton for Chicago running backs.

He established himself on special teams during the preseason, a clear advantage over Taylor apart from any salary or production differences. Whether he stays on special teams Sunday, however, is unlikely given his expanded role on offense.

The more you can do, the more valuable you are to any team or any organization, Bell said. I definitely want to be a running back, dont get me wrong. I love running the ball. Thats what I feel like what I was put here to do.

But at the same time, if theyre asking me to cover a kick or help in punt protection or whatever they ask me to do. Any time Im out there, Im going to give 100 percent.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Jerrell Freeman played hero at an Austin airport on Sunday.

The Bears linebacker was grabbing a bite to eat before his flight to head back to Chicago for training camp when he noticed a man choking.

Freeman said an older lady tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the man but didn't have enough strength. That's when Freeman stepped in, and after a couple attempts, saved his life.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

Freeman tweeted a picture after it happened:

Freeman, 31, said he had never done the Heimlich maneuver before, but his mom is a nurse and had talked to him about it. He just did what he heard, and thankfully it worked.