Will the real A-Train please standup

<!--Default NodeId For Anthony Thomas is 292248,2002--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:292248]>Anthony Thomas</A> has had an up and down career since joining the Bears a second-round pick in 2001. The A-Train burst on the scene winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the team's 13-3 season, but his production fell off dramatically last year. Now Bears management is wondering, which is the real Thomas?

Coming off a disastrous 4-12 season, Bears GM Jerry Angelo has talked through the media to motivate his players.

One of the players that he has been most critical of is Thomas. The running back had a great rookie season compiling 1,183 yards on the ground. In an injury shorten season he rushed for 721 yards, but averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.

Angelo has said that he doesn't think Thomas is a special running back and Adrian Peterson will compete for a starting role.

Thomas tried to downplay Angelo's comments during the team's mini-camp, but the fact remains that the Bears GM didn't draft him but did select Peterson in the sixth-round last year.

"Everybody has their opinion, but I know he's (Angelo) my boss," Thomas said. "That's one thing I'm trying to show him that I'm a special back. I'm trying to prove in his eyes that I'm right for this team."

Injuries on the offensive line played a role in Thomas' struggles last year, but he also seemed to lack the vision he had as a rookie. Even after reviewing the film from 2002, Thomas isn't sure what went wrong.

"I really haven't yet," Thomas said. "I've been sitting here trying to watch film trying to get everything together."

Thomas tried to add speed following his rookie season and made a similar attempt this offseason, but despite looking trimmer A-Train said he hasn't lost any weight. He trained in Michigan for most of the offseason, before joining the team program on March 24.

This isn't the first time Angelo has used the media to motivate his players. Following the draft he mentioned David Terrell, Thomas' Michigan teammate, would be pushed by Justin Gage the team's fifth-round draft pick. Terrell seemed insulted by the comments and vowed to win a starting job. While, Thomas didn't seem as visibly driven as Terrell, the fact that Peterson will be given a chance to win the starting job should be motivation enough.

"Anthony's our starting running back and Adrian will certainly have a chance to show himself, more opportunity to show in preseason than he did a year ago, and then we'll just see where the thing goes," said Dick Jauron. "Anthony's No. 1, somebody can come and challenge and take his job, but they'll have to go through him. And if he gets beat out, so be it. Again, that's true everywhere."

The team is still in search of a change of pace back that can be used in third down situations. Ideally, the Bears want a back that can catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks if need be, but there opportunity to find such a player might have passed with the draft.

There were several running backs on the board when the Bears chose in the fourth round. However, they decided to go with Todd Johnson instead of Domanick Davis or Onterrio Smith who went within the next five selections. Both backs have experience returning kicks and would have added speed to the backfield.


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