Turner's homecoming could mean long day for Bears, Dan Pompei
Quote:Turner's homecoming could mean long day for Bears
11:55 p.m. CDT, September 6, 2011
If you are having problems scoring a ticket for the Bears-Falcons game Sunday at Soldier Field, Michael Turner might be to blame.
The Falcons running back is hoarding tickets for family members and friends. The request list is at 50, and growing by the day.
Turner grew up in North Chicago with a poster of the 1985 Bears offensive line on his bedroom wall. He went to Northern Illinois.
And Sunday, after seven years in the NFL, he will play his first regular-season game in Soldier Field.
So Turner's people are as excited as he is. He is excited because it's Soldier Field. Because it's the season opener. Because it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Because he is coming back after offseason surgery.
"You are so excited to get back out there," said Turner, who has played in two Pro Bowls and has averaged 4.4 yard per carry and 13 touchdowns per season since becoming a Falcon three years ago. "Especially this year with the lockout having football almost taken away from you. Everyone wants a fast start. It's very important to win a tough road game. It's a good test to see where you're at."
It might be more difficult than usual for Turner to get off to a fast start because of some changes on his offensive line. The team's starting center, Todd McClure, is expected to have a string of 144 straight starts broken because of recent knee surgery. In his place will be Joe Hawley, a fourth-round draft pick from 2010 who will be making his first NFL start.
The Falcons also will have a new starter at right guard, as Garrett Reynolds is slated to replace Harvey Dahl, who went to the Rams in free agency.
"You don't want to lose the captain of your offensive line," Turner said. "It's an adversity we have to overcome. Hopefully, whoever is replacing him can get up to speed real quick, we can get the chemistry down quick and we can trust he'll do his job."
Turner may have to open some of his own holes. But given his style, the 5-foot-10, 244 pounder is used to that.
It wasn't as easy for him to do last year because he pulled a groin muscle early in the season. He played most of the year wearing a special wrap and had sports hernia surgery in the offseason.
The Falcons expect Turner to come back strong based on what they have seen in training camp.
"He is a very tough, resilient guy," Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "I believe he has a number of good years left in him.'
Turner said he feels a lot better now than he did at the end of last season. "
"I feel I can run again," he said. "It was hard to run last year. I couldn't run fast for long distance, and my short, quick burst, side to side, was affected."
Turner's performance suffered as the season wore on. In the first half, he averaged 4.3 yards per carry; in the second half, he dropped to 3.5.
Turner plays so physical he usually isn't going to be completely healthy after opening day. The Falcons haven't hesitated to call his number, either. He had 334 carries last year and 376 three years ago.
Turner is 29, an age at which running backs often start to slow down. Turner, though says he still feels young.
It may be to his benefit that he averaged only 57 carries a year for the first four years of his career when he was LaDainian Tomlinson's backup.
"I didn't get thrown into the fire right way," he said. "A running back's life usually is based on amount of carries. I'm kind of like an experiment. I didn't play much for four years."
The Falcons hope to take some of the load off Turner this year by giving Jason Snelling some work and sprinkling in rookie Jacquizz Rodgers.
But Turner doesn't want to give up too many snaps. He is the type of back who gets stronger the more work he gets. Over his career, Turner has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.
"That's my style," he said. "I like to keep touching the ball, keep playing, feel the game. Hopefully in the fourth quarter I can wear defenses out and finish the job."
That translates to if the outcome of the Bears-Falcons game Sunday at Soldier Field isn't what you had hoped, Michael Turner might be to blame.