- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte never gave an explanation of the team's new offense under Marc Trestman, but it's clear he expects to return to form as the multi-dimensional threat he's been in the past.
Forte called the team's new scheme "more challenging to me personally" because in addition to learning his own responsibilities, he has to know the jobs of others, not to mention the "why" behind what he's doing.
"It's easy to learn what you do, but to actually have to learn the concepts of what the receivers are doing and why I have to run this route to get that guy open ... it makes it more difficult, but also more intriguing as a player," Forte said Tuesday after the club's second workout of organized team activities. "I have to learn more than what the 'H' does. I've got to learn what the 'F' does, (and) where he lines up because I may have a situation where I line up as a receiver. I have to learn the receivers' routes as well."
Forte gained 1,434 yards from scrimmage in 2012 (1,094 rushing and 340 receiving) to build his career total to 7,652 yards, which ranks as third most in franchise history. While the numbers would seem to indicate a productive season -- which it was -- Forte rushed for 100 yards or more in just three games.
Although he ranked second on the team in receptions (44), Forte caught 74 fewer passes than leading receiver Brandon Marshall (119). Forte's 44 catches in 2012 represented a career low for the running back, who in the four previous seasons, averaged close to 56 grabs per year.
"I would expect (to be used more in the new offense). Coach Trestman I think he said he watched a lot of film on me and has seen me run different routes," Forte said. "So we'll get back to catching the ball out of the backfield like we did the prior years."
What happened in 2012 is tough to determine, in part, because of the myriad issues along the offensive line as Jay Cutler absorbed 38 sacks. Going into the 2012 season, Forte probably expected to see fewer passes thrown his way. But he certainly didn't anticipate the offense running primarily through Marshall, who caught 89 more passes than Earl Bennett, who ranked second in receptions among players at the receiver position.
"I think last year was basically the only time that happened. Before that, I actually was running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield, had multiple catches," Forte said. "Last year was the only (reduction) in catches. Brandon had a lot of catches, and everybody else really didn't have a whole lot. We were kind of one-dimensional last year I would say. So it's gonna be an emphasis for us this year to spread the ball around so that it works, it's balanced. The defense can't just focus on one guy or one position."
Forte also hopes the team sufficiently addressed issues up front on the offensive line. In 2012, the team added Marshall in free agency, and used the draft to ramp up the pass rush with defensive end Shea McClellin, before bringing in another receiver in Alshon Jeffery.
Instead of bolstering the offensive line with new players, the team believed the combination of former offensive coordinator Mike Tice's scheme -- which called for shorter quarterback drops -- the growth of former left tackle J'Marcus Webb, and the improved health of 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi would be enough to provide Cutler sufficient protection.
Obviously they weren't, which is why Forte is at OTAs with a new coaching staff, offense, and a slew of new teammates that includes several offensive linemen.
"I'm excited (about the additions)," Forte said. "You always want to see the line get bolstered up front because that's where it starts in the passing game and the running game. The past couple of years we've been having the same guys, but switching spots. Somebody that's been playing tackle moves to guard, and moves on the other side at the other tackle. So it'll be important to have five guys up there who start the whole year, and God forbid injuries, just stay on that set line and work together."
As for the rushing portion of the new offense, Forte said the runs won't change as much as the blocking schemes, which he said suit the offensive line more now than in years past.
As for an explanation of the new offense, Forte left that up to recently-acquired tight end Martellus Bennett.
"It's kind of like trying to learn a new language," Bennett said. "Like someone coming in and speaking Chinese, which I believe is the hardest language to learn, but most people think it's English because most of us speak improper English, and I'm one of the ones that do. Uh, does … one of the ones that does. For the most part, it's like learning a new language right now."