A mild surprise of sorts unfolded in Green Bay when Kahlil Bell ran for 121 yards and vaulted himself squarely into the No. 2 running back spot going into next offseason.

A second, bigger surprise will play out next Sunday if Marion Barber is active in Minnesota.

A third, major jaw-dropper will come in January or possibly February if Barber is still a Bear.

Barber was inactive Sunday because of a calf injury, the same type of problem that caused him to miss the fourth preseason and first three regular-season games. And Barber missed three games in 2010 with a calf injury.

Quoting James Bond, Once is chance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action.

Its a concern always when a player has missed time, and not just one year, said coach Lovie Smith. Hes been a player thats been injured quite a bit. We always look at the history. So that is a factor in determining players on your roster, what position he has and all of that.

Barber is due to make 1.9 million in 2012, the second year of his two-year contract, and he is expected to go the way of Chester Taylor, Barbers highly paid predecessor.

Bell, who just turned 25 this month, is the reason Barber, who turns 29 in June, is expendable. Bell is a restricted free agent after this season and is playing his way into an upper-level tender offer that would ensure the Bears the right to match an offer to him or receive compensation. The money may not be significantly less than Barbers deal but the production, versatility and dependability are better.

 

He does have to hold onto the ball, but he made excellent cuts in the open field, ran with power, caught the ball out of the backfield, Smith said. Everything you want a good running back in the NFL to do, he did, on a national stage. You have to feel good about what he did in his first time as the bell cow

Based on what hes done his entire time here you would feel comfortable with him as the No. 2 running back.

Bell isnt. Which is exactly the attitude coaches want.

Im not interested in that, Bell said. I never woke in the morning and said Im going out there to be the No. 2 running back on any team that Ive ever been on. My goal is to be a starter in this league, and thats what Im shooting for. Im not settling for anything less.