Rookie running back Tarik Cohen spent his bye week watching football — high school, college and pro. It wasn’t until he checked out North Carolina A&T’s schedule while back home that he realized exactly what was in front of him.
His alma mater has two games left. The Bears have eight.
“That’s the only thing that really caught me off guard,” he said.
As the Bears return from their week off, the rookie wall awaits.
“I’ve heard it said,” Cohen said Monday. “I feel like I’m good. I’m refreshed. The bye week came at a perfect time. But even before the bye week, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was getting sluggish or running into any type of wall.”
In the first half, Cohen was asked to do more than any running back Curtis Modkins has ever coached. The Bears lined him up at outside receiver, slot receiver and running back. Cohen held up, mentally and physically, Modkins said last week.
“We knew he was a tough kid,” said Modkins, the Bears’ running backs coach. “This is very important to him. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the next few years. He’s going to be a really, really, really special player.”
Two veterans could lessen Cohen’s wide-receiver responsibilities Sunday. Dontrelle Inman will play after the Bears traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the Chargers for him, and Markus Wheaton could return from a groin injury. Wheaton was present at practice, though the Bears aren’t required to file an injury report until Wednesday.
“I feel like it’ll open up our offense,” Cohen said. “We had key injuries that took away from the offense, took away from the passing game. With people coming in and veterans coming back, it’s going to open up the offense. [It will] take stress off Jordan [Howard], and we can just get the ball and distribute it in a lot of different areas.’’
It’s up to the coaches, though, to find the best ways to get Cohen the ball. After rushing 14 times against the Ravens, Cohen had no carries against the Panthers and four against the Saints. After making eight receptions in each of the Bears’ first two games, then four apiece in the third and fourth games, Cohen has been limited to one reception per game the last four.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been overworked or had an overload put on me,” Cohen said. “I feel like I’m taking everything they want me to do in the playbook and really running with it in stride. It’s not necessarily a lot in one area. It’s just bits and pieces in a lot of areas, so I feel like I’m able to handle that.”
After looking at eight weeks of film, Cohen knows there are areas to improve. Between the tackles, he needs to take what the defense gives him and hit the hole harder.
He’ll take all the carries — and receptions — the Bears send his way.
“I feel like I could handle more touches if that’s what the offense needs me to do,” he said. “I’m all for the team and anywhere I need to be on the field. [Whether] I need to be the decoy guy or if I need the ball in my hands, I’m for it.”
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