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Bears coach Marc Trestman has Matt Forte on speed dial

Bears running back Matt Forte injured for last 41/2 games seasis planning play Jan. 29 Pro Bowl Hawaii.| Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Bears running back Matt Forte, injured for the last 41/2 games of the season, is planning to play in the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.| Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 1, 2013 5:28PM



NEW ORLEANS — Bears running back Matt Forte, one of former coach Lovie Smith’s staunchest supporters, is excited about what he’s learned so far about his new coach.

On Thursday, Forte was in New Orleans — about 40 minutes southwest of his hometown of Slidell — for a number of appearances and interviews, and he was in an upbeat mood about the Bears’ future.

Coach Marc Trestman didn’t waste any time making a strong first impression, calling him the day he was hired.

‘‘It was pretty cool to me,’’ Forte told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I’m pretty sure he was busy, but he had the heart to call me and introduce [himself], and he asked me personal questions, not just about football. He seems like a good person.’’

Forte visited Halas Hall a few days ago and met with new running backs coach Skip Peete, who told him he was excited to work with him.

In doing his homework, Forte is confident he’ll be a good fit in Trestman’s offense, which emphasizes protecting the quarterback, highlighting the versatility of offensive skill players and attacking the defense.

‘‘I think that’s good,’’ Forte said of Trestman’s No. 1 priority, which is to protect Jay Cutler. ‘‘That’s important because football is a game of inches, and if he’s got a clean pocket, he can make the throw and it might not get tipped, or it might be that much more on point and the receiver doesn’t have to slow down.’’

That, of course, isn’t all.

‘‘If he’s keeping the quarterback clean,’’ Forte said slyly, ‘‘then the running game is going to be clean, too.’’

Despite suspect play by the offensive line, Forte averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry in 2012 and finished with 1,094 rushing yards. But he had a career-low 44 receptions. That’ll likely change under Trestman.

‘‘I saw where Charlie Garner had 91 receptions,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I can receive out of the backfield. They might be a zone scheme, and I’m good with that, too.’’

In 2002, when Trestman was the Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator, Garner was the starting running back and hauled in 91 catches for 941 yards and four touchdowns.

During the news conference to introduce Trestman, Bears general manager Phil Emery strongly backed Forte.

‘‘I’m going to be frank: Matt was brought back, and I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver,’’ Emery said. ‘‘For whatever reason — whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching — we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.’’

Emery then noted that tight end Kellen Davis had a ‘‘rough year.’’

The 2012 season was a challenging one for Forte, who sprained his ankle three times, though he only missed one game. After the 10-6 season, he immediately said he hoped Smith would return.

He noted he was ‘‘attached’’ to the coaching staff, particularly running backs coach Tim Spencer.

‘‘He helped develop me,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I liked him because he expects so much out of me because he knows the type of player I am.

‘‘He expects so much out of you that you want to go out there and play tough and play hard for a guy like that. I would recommend him to anybody.’’



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