Bears RB Jones practices, status still uncertain

Updated: August 17, 2006, 1:58 AM ET
Associated Press

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Bears had a familiar figure on the practice field for their final workout before breaking training camp: Thomas Jones.

Running back
Chicago Bears

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The team's top rusher last year, who hadn't suited up or practiced since camp began after hurting his hamstring while running during his physical, worked with the scout squad Wednesday.

"It feels good to practice today and get back on the field. Obviously I'll do a lot more next week. Today's the first day back," Jones said.

Coach Lovie Smith said he wanted to ease Jones into full-speed work.

"It's a step at a time and he's missed a lot of time, but we like where he's at right now," Smith said Wednesday.

Jones, who rushed for 1,335 yards last season, was demoted to the second team after skipping voluntary offseason workouts. But Cedric Benson, who'd been promoted, hurt his shoulder in training camp and is sidelined.

Clayton: Bears camp tour
BearsLovie Smith's address to the Chicago Bears at the start of training camp was simple. He wanted the league's top defense to find a way to recover more of the fumbles it causes (the Bears recovered only 10 of 26 caused fumbles last season). He wanted better offensive production on third down. And finally he wanted to find a way for the offense to score 21 points a game.

"In the playoff game against Carolina, we scored 21 points," Smith said. "With our defense, that's a good starting point."

•  To read more of John Clayton's take on the Bears, click here.

Neither played last week in the preseason opener at San Francisco. Nor will they play this Friday in the home exhibition game against San Diego.

Jones wasn't sure if he'd be ready for the third preseason game Aug. 25 against the Cardinals.

"I'm prepared to do whatever they want me to do, that's how I'm looking at it. Coaches and trainers wanted me to do a little bit today. I'm sure they'll want me to do more next week. However they want is how I'll go," he said.

Jones said he took it fairly easy in the final practice at Olivet Nazarene University.

Asked if he wanted to regain the No. 1 spot, Jones said he wasn't going to comment.

"That's irrelevant. I'm here to play football, I'm not here to talk about controversy and all," he said. "I'm here to do what I'm capable of doing and that's make plays."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Jones and Benson are "both very good players."

"We believe in both of them," Turner said. "We're going to put them both out there and hand them the ball and let them go."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press