Allen, Booker force tough Bears' decision

CLEVELAND -- Still gassed, Chicago Bears running back Armando Allen stood in front of a crammed shared locker bearing two nameplates: his own, next to that of his main competition, Lorenzo Booker.

Minutes after he and Booker blazed the Cleveland Browns for 231 yards combined in a 28-20 Bears victory Thursday night -- making for a roster decision quarterback Josh McCown said he’s glad to not have to make -- Allen knows it’s unlikely the two will share the same locker again, let alone the same team after Friday’s cut down to the final 53-man roster.

“I feel like both of us, we’re very, very talented backs and the only thing we can do is do what we can do when our number is called,” Allen said. “The decision is not in our hands, but I think we both went out there and showed what we’re capable of.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith called Thursday’s contest “the Super Bowl for some of the players trying to earn a spot on the roster” to “just establish their position and the running back position,” and Allen and Booker certainly played like it. Booker, who rushed for 81 yards on 15 attempts, in addition to contributing four catches for 16 yards left the game in the third quarter with a head injury and wasn’t made available to the media by team officials.

Allen, meanwhile, rushed for a game-high 83 yards on 16 carries, including a 49-yard burst in the fourth quarter.

“Both Booker and Allen stepped up and made play after play when they got an opportunity to,” Smith said.

Signed on July 17, Booker appeared to be behind initially in the competition with Allen. But a 105-yard kickoff return against the Washington Redskins caught the staff’s attention and seemingly pushed him slightly ahead. Booker appeared to extend that edge in the first half by averaging 6.9 yards per carry in the first half to Allen’s 1.7 yards per attempt.

But Allen made up for his lack of yardage on the ground by catching five passes in the first half for 51 yards, and later forced a fumble in the second half in addition to gaining the majority of his rushing yards in the second half.

“I feel that I did everything that I could tonight to help our team to win as that was the most important thing for us,” Allen said. “Tonight wasn’t really about me in the huddle, it was just looking at all the other guys and knowing what we had all been through during camp that was really important.”

In explaining the strong performances by not only Allen and Booker but the entire team, Smith discussed the reality everyone faces Friday, when the team cuts to its final 53-man roster. Smith said he wasn’t surprised by the performances of any of the players taking part in Thursday’s preseason finale.

“You know, a lot of players in there won’t be with us anymore,” Smith said. “I assume as a player going out, you don’t want any regrets. If you don’t have any regrets, you can say, ‘Hey, I gave it my all. I played as well as I could my last time out.’ I think most of the guys can say that tonight.”

Certainly, Allen and Booker can.