A-Train on Board and Running

Lake Forest - Not trading Anthony Thomas may turn out to be one of the Bears' shrewdest moves of the year.

The A-Train's 144 combined yards -- 98 rushing and 46 receiving -- were 56.7 percent of the Bears' total in Sunday night's 23-13 victory over the 49ers. He easily could have been an ex-Bear by then, but coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Terry Shea both were steadfast in their belief that having a solid backup to Thomas Jones was more important than accepting a token draft choice in exchange for the two-time 1,000-yard rusher.

"I think you can't have too many good players at any position," Smith said. "(Especially) at the running back position. Most teams will go through a couple running backs each year. It's a physical, tough position to play. We really wanted three tailbacks that we thought we could win with, and we feel like we have that. And now is the time to call on Anthony. Anthony felt like he was a starting tailback all along, and he wanted to get his chance and he got the chance (Sunday) night and he made the most of it."

Thomas doesn't have the speed or quickness of Jones, but with just 16 carries in the first six games, he displayed fresh legs and a bounce in his step that allowed the offense to carry on without a hitch.

"I always promoted the fact that we need Anthony Thomas, and that was the case (Sunday) night," Shea said. "He has shown speed in practice, he has shown speed when he's been back healthy, so the speed factor didn't surprise me at all. He's always been a pretty good catcher for us in practice, so for him to make that neat little catch on the (30-yard) screen, that was not a surprise, and he's always been a real workhorse-type runner."

Thomas took over on the second series Sunday night after Jones suffered a sprained big toe on his left foot. Jones is not expected to be fully recovered in time for Sunday afternoon's game at the Meadowlands against the New York Giants although Smith did not rule him out on Monday.

"I have no idea really of (Jones') situation," Smith said. "I assume that he'll be able to go this week. We'll know more a little bit later on."

But Smith admitted the Bears really have no idea how long Jones will be out. He had an MRI Monday, the results of which should be known Tuesday. But he probably will be held out of practice all week and therefore is unlikely to play, so Thomas should get his first start of the season.

"When I go out and play I just want to play. I just want to have the best success that I can," Thomas said. "It's not trying to prove that I can or anything. Everybody knows what I can do. It's not trying to upstage someone or do something different."


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