Balancing Act

With two running backs that have the ability to start, it will be up to the coaches to keep both Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson involved.

"We have two guys that can play," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "The challenge is to find a way to maximize their talents and get them both on the field and get them both being impact players, which is something we think we can do."

Coach Lovie Smith reiterated that Jones is the starter, but the sixth-year veteran appears reluctant to discuss his situation. During last weekend's mini-camp Jones eluded the press on more than one occasion. On Saturday morning he maneuvered through an autograph line and into a side door at Halas Hall, giving reporters the slip. Following the Saturday afternoon practice, Jones bolted wide of the media and outran the pursuit, saying that he would talk on Sunday. But, at the conclusion of Sunday's practice, the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder emerged from within a circle of wide receivers, sprinted for the side door and disappeared. When his presence was requested by a media relations employee, Jones said he had a flight to catch.

If he proves as hard to catch for opponents in the fall, Jones might be able to hold on to his job. But that's unlikely. He and Benson won't be playing together, and there aren't enough carries to keep both of them happy, so Jones figures to wind up as the backup.

"They both can do a lot of the same things," Turner said. "Each one is going to have their own strengths, and we'll try to draw from both."

Jones rushed for 948 yards and a 4.0-yard average last season with seven touchdowns on 240 carries. He'll remain ahead of Benson until the rookie begins to react instinctively rather than contemplating his assignments.

"Every time we call a play, he's thinking, 'What do I do, and where do I go and all that,'" Turner said of Benson. "We're going to spend the month of June (during 14 practice sessions) really getting him to feel comfortable with what we're doing. We'll find out what he can do mentally and physically.

"I don't know who the starter is. We're going to use both of them, I know that much."

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