Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Chicago Bears [Print without images]

Monday, December 26, 2011
Smith vague on Barber's future with Bears

By Jeff Dickerson

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bears head coach Lovie Smith hardly gave running back Marion Barber a ringing endorsement after a the seven-year veteran missed his fourth game of the season with a calf injury.

Marion Barber
Marion Barber's future with the Bears is unclear.

A bad calf also forced Barber to sit out three games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2010.

Barber's inability to stay healthy, coupled with costly mental and physical mistakes in critical losses to Kansas City and Denver, has opened the door for Kahlil Bell to supplant the veteran as the Bears No. 2 running back next season.

In 11 games for the Bears, Barber has rushed for 422 yards and six touchdowns.

Smith was asked Monday if Barber's chronically banged up calf will factor into the organization's plans in the offseason.

"It's a concern, always, when a player has missed time," Smith said. "And not just one year...he's been a player who's been injured quite a bit. We always look at the history, so that is a factor in determining if a player is on your roster, what position he has, all of that. But it's just one of things you use to evaluate."

Barber signed a two-year contract with the Bears that paid him a base salary in 2011 of $2 million, plus a $500,000 roster bonus. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.9 million next season and could pocket a $100,000 workout bonus if the Bears decide to keep him on the roster.

It's unclear if Barber will suit up for the Bears' season finale on Sunday in Minnesota.