Risky Proposition

Bourbonnais - With Cedric Benson not in camp, the Bears have to be leery of overworking Thomas Jones in the preseason. An injury to Jones would give Benson the ultimate bargaining chip.

The Bears play two preseason games in a span of four days, which could be a recipe for disaster. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has to make sure he keeps Jones healthy for when the wins and loses count in the record book.

"We've got five game so we've got to make sure that September 11 we've got the right guys on the field," Turner said. "To get enough work, yet (to make sure) they're healthy when we start and that's definitely (the case) with Thomas."

Jones has never been a durable performer over the course of his career. Only twice in five seasons has he appeared in 16 games and both of those efforts came when he was used primarily in a reserve role.

Last year he set career highs with 14 starts and 240 carries, but he did miss time because of foot sprain. The worst-case scenario for the Bears would be to trot Jones out for a preseason game and have him get hurt. Such a scenario would shift all negotiating power to Benson and his agent Eugene Parker.

"You have to play your guys and hope that you don't have any injuries," said head coach Lovie Smith. "We'll protect them as much as we can. Thomas has to get reps and that's how we'll play him."

Jones will likely play less than a quarter on Monday's match-up against the Miami Dolphins. Over the course of the first two weeks of training camp, the Bears have chosen to use Adrian Peterson in situations where a running back might absorb punishment, such as a goal line drill.

The longer Benson is out, the closer the calendar gets to September and the season opener at Washington.

Jones complained about not getting enough work in Terry Shea's offense. Although Jones has quickly become a fan of Turner, if he has to be limited in the preseason, getting off to a fast start may be difficult.

"Last year we were running the ball not as much as I wanted to," Jones said. "You know, a running back like me, I need to get the ball so I can get carries and get myself into a groove."

Not only do the Bears have to worry about protecting Jones, but when Benson agrees to a deal it will be will be temping to rush him into action. Trying to justify his multimillion-dollar contract is just as dangerous a proposition.


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