Leading Man

Fullback Marc Edwards was signed by the Bears on the eve of training camp because of the injuries to backup Jason McKie and starter Bryan Johnson.

McKie, who started two games and played in 15 last season, returned to practice last week from a torn chest muscle and has two more weeks to be moved from the non-football injury list to the active roster, injured reserve or be cut.

Johnson, who started 12 games last season before a foot injury ended his season and resulted in surgery, has two more weeks to return from the physically unable to perform list, and then three weeks from that time for the Bears to decide what to do with him.

But regardless of who returns and when, the job currently belongs to Edwards, who is tied for the team lead with two TD catches on eight receptions for 44 yards, and he has helped pave the way for the career-best running of Thomas Jones.

"Marc has done a great job for us," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's our starting fullback right now. Once we get other players (back), they become a part of the mix. We got Jason back up and running last week. It'll be good to get Bryan Johnson as soon as we can, too."

Edwards blocked for Garrison Hearst in his Pro Bowl season of 1998 when he gained 1,570 yards on the ground for San Francisco. He helped Fred Taylor set a Jacksonville Jaguars team record with 1,572 yards rushing in 2002.

For now, Jones is happy with Edwards leading him through the trenches.

"Marc Edwards is a veteran guy who has won a Super Bowl (in 2001 with the Patriots)," Jones said. "He's a smart guy. He knows who to block. He knows how to make adjustments on the run. Anytime you have guys who can do things like that, a play that could be a disaster can end up being a great play because he ends up in the right place. Marc Edwards definitely deserves a lot of credit. He's done a great job ever since he's been here. He came in out of the blue and did a great job in training camp. He's done a great job up until now."

Last year Johnson and McKie combined for 27 receptions, 125 yards and four touchdowns. Edwards has caught as many as 31 balls in a season. Including his numbers from this season, Edwards has 165 career receptions for 1,279 yards and ten touchdowns.

While there are few, if any, superstar fullbacks, Edwards has already surpassed his output of seven receptions last year - his lowest output since his rookie season.

"He's a smart, experienced player," said running backs coach Tim Spencer. "He's not going to make mistakes and he's still good at his craft. You know what you're going to get from Marc, he's going to be solid all the way around."

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