BOURBONNAIS — Question Bears coach Marc Trestman about how Matt Forte can improve during training camp and he practically does a Kennedy impression.
Ask not what Matt Forte can do for the Bears. Ask what the Bears can do to help their Pro Bowl running back top the best season of his career.
‘‘We continue to ask ourselves, ‘How can we help him?’ ’’ Trestman said this week at Olivet Nazarene University. ‘‘ ‘How can we find plays that we can allow him to use his talents?’ We’re working in that direction.’’
His talents are well documented, Forte having finished second in the NFL last year with 1,339 rushing yards and third with 1,933 yards from scrimmage.
The Bears’ ability to better use him will improve, too, one year after they installed Trestman’s offense.
It’s about ‘‘having the whole entire offense back and being able to take off from the playbook,’’ Forte told the Sun-Times, ‘‘where we know what we can do and what we like to do.’’
Last year, Forte touched the ball more than any other NFL running back except LeSean McCoy in an offense that finished second in scoring.
‘‘Doesn’t mean anything now,’’ he said. ‘‘You can always look back at what you did in the past and be excited about it, but it means nothing going forward. So it’s a whole new season. Wipe the slate clean and start over from there. Everyone on offense knows that part. We did good things last year, but that doesn’t transfer over to this year. We have to do new and better things this year and continue to be a good offense and try to be consistently good, each and every game.’’
If it’s possible, Forte is more valuable this year than last. The reason is the chasm between him and his backups.
Four of the five reserves — rookies Ka’Deem Carey, Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry and second-year special-team specialist Michael Ford — have never carried the ball in a regular-season game. The fifth, Shaun Draughn, has 63 career carries, but in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, he logged only four last season. Michael Bush, the since-released backup last season, at least had experience on his side with 809 career carries.
Short of quarterback Jay Cutler, whom the offense prioritizes protecting at all costs, Forte is the Bears’ most irreplaceable offensive star this season.
‘‘I mean, everyone can make an important case,’’ wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said. ‘‘But I feel like, to win a Super Bowl, it starts with the guys up front. So they’re the most important. And then with him carrying the ball and catching the ball? The sky’s the limit.’’
Forte put in his work before camp began, running hills with tight end Martellus Bennett and training with the defensive backs.
Rookie Kyle Fuller said Forte and others have shown him ‘‘how to be a pro’’ in the offseason. Lynch, a Heisman Trophy finalist as a quarterback at Northern Illinois, said Forte is ‘‘always looking to help’’ him learn his new position.
‘‘He’s a beast,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘He works hard. He’s a gym rat.’’
Forte called his typical conditioning routine ‘‘what you’re supposed to do’’ but knows it matters as he gets older.
‘‘This is my seventh training camp,’’ he said. ‘‘Continue to maintain your body so you can endure the entire season.’’
Trestman has noticed.
‘‘Matt does a great job in all aspects of his preparation,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We obviously know he’s in tremendous condition. He’s the guy taking notes in meetings and doing all the little things in the protection meetings, making sure he’s on top of everything. He just continues to try to be the best player he can be — and that’s all we can ask of him.’’