<
>

Preseason Notebook: Former Lion joins muddled Bears backfield

9/10/2008

The Bears probably won't get Brett Favre, but they have acquired a key offensive piece from a division rival.

Earlier this week they signed Kevin Jones, formerly of the Detroit Lions, to join a backfield that's now as unsettled as nearly any in the NFL.


Chicago cut troubled former starter Cedric Benson in June after drafting Matt Forte out of Tulane in April. That left the team with Forte, the "other" Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe as possible tailbacks in the Windy City, and the Bears swore up and down that they were comfortable with Forte as their starter. All we've heard for months is that Forte is ready to play right away, that he's an accomplished blocker, that he's heady and mature, and that he even could be a candidate for 300 carries.

Now Jones is in the fold, and the situation is muddled. True, Jones had ACL surgery seven months ago and isn't considered ready for contact right now. The Chicago Sun-Times says it's even possible he could start the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Bears continue to insist that Forte is their starter and that Jones is simply insurance, and I'm sure they hope that's true.

But let's face it: If Forte struggles, as rookies often do, coach Lovie Smith will be very tempted to use Jones if it appears the former first-rounder is ready to go. There's definitely a chance that after two major injuries in two seasons, Jones won't be the same lightning-fast player we remember from Detroit, but you must believe that at some point the Bears will want to find out. So no matter how the team spins it, the acquisition of Kevin Jones does hinder the fantasy value of Matt Forte. Is Jones a pure handcuff? No, because there really is a chance he's just not ready to play. Mostly this adds to a jumble that was already brewing. Peterson is a good third-down back and a great pass-catcher. Wolfe is a third-down-type player, too. And now Jones, an every-down guy when he's playing well, has come to town. Though Forte is still the first guy I'd draft from this team, he has lost a bit of luster heading into training camp.

Let's see what else is in the news:

Peyton Manning had surgery on his left knee to remove an inflamed bursa sac. After an initial frenzy about the injury taking six weeks to heal and Manning being iffy for Week 1, cooler heads have prevailed. Manning had a similar problem in college but was able to return in less than a month. I wouldn't bump Manning down your quarterback charts one iota because of this.

• Beleaguered former Bengals wideout Chris Henry got good news this week, as prosecutors dropped assault charges against him. As a result, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says that Henry's indefinite suspension is under review. Henry's lawyer, Perry Ancona, says that Henry "has no money and needs a job" and likely will apply for reinstatement soon. It's not as if this most recent assault arrest was Henry's only run-in with the law, so his status in the league is very much up in the air. Even if he were to play in the NFL this season, it seems very unlikely Henry would be back with the Bengals.

• Nothing much is new in the Brett Favre case, other than lots of posturing. Favre knows the Packers won't release him, and the Packers know Favre won't keep his mouth closed if he were to be a backup. Though the team still could decide to swallow its pride and go back to No. 4 as its starter (thereby alienating Aaron Rodgers and probably losing him when his rookie contract expires), I think it's likelier that a trade will happen. The Pack still swears it won't deal Favre to an NFC team, but there just aren't a lot of likely AFC landing spots. The Ravens and Jets say they don't want Favre, the Dolphins and Chiefs won't be any good, and the Bills say they're committed, for better or worse, to Trent Edwards.

Johnny Jolly, a good young defensive tackle in Green Bay, faces felony drug-trafficking charges for possessing at least 200 grams of codeine. Jolly was part of the group expected to help replace Corey Williams, who departed for Cleveland this spring but now faces a late-July court date and could be looking at extended jail time.


• ESPN's John Clayton reports there's an "outside chance" Marvin Harrison could be cleared to practice by the beginning of training camp. Harrison reportedly is still dealing with knee issues and probably won't play much in preseason games, but the Colts are hopeful he'll be ready to go by Week 1. He makes for one risky fantasy football draft pick right now.

• According to the Miami Herald, Dolphins quarterback Josh McCown needed six stitches in his hand when his brother, Luke, accidentally slashed his hand while trying to chop wood. I'm sure there's a smart-alecky comment in this incident about the accuracy issues that have plagued the McCown brothers, but I'll let another writer pick that low-hanging fruit. McCown is still the early favorite to win the Dolphins' starting gig in training camp.

• Former first-round pick Matt Jones was busted for possession of cocaine late last week. Conflicting reports have swirled about the incident. According to the Florida Times-Union, Jones admitted to arresting officers that the coke was his, but according to Pro Football Weekly, Jones' father insists that the drugs belonged to someone else. The Jaguars already were thought to be considering cutting the wide receiver during camp, so although they're no doubt waiting for the legal system to sort things out, they can't be expecting the converted college quarterback to contribute anything in '08.

• The New York Post ran an article this week indicating that the Jets hope Kellen Clemens wins their starting quarterback gig. Quoth the Post: "Aside from the handful of veteran free agents they added this offseason, the Jets are in more of a youth movement. Though no one will say it publicly, it's clear the Jets are hoping Clemens wins the job and justifies the team drafting him in the second round three years ago."

• The Detroit News reports that Dan Orlovsky is ahead of Drew Stanton on the Lions' quarterback depth chart. Though it's awfully early to start making pronouncements about Stanton being a bust, it's nevertheless looking less likely that he'll be a threat to replace Jon Kitna at some point this year, unless he makes some dramatic improvements in camp.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.