Matt Forte

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) catches a ball during receiving drills at training camp. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune / July 30, 2014)

BOURBONNAIS — With a horde of running backs vying to be his understudy, Bears Pro Bowler Matt Forte is straightforward with his training camp advice.

"I tell them every day, 'You have to do something to separate yourself,'" Forte said. "No matter what it is. Whether it's running 50 yards after you catch the ball, getting extra work after practice, whatever. But the real separation comes when those preseason games hit."

The Bears' exhibition opener is now less than a week away, setting the stage for the backup running backs to show their stuff. And while Michael Ford may have the most extensive familiarity with the offense and rookie Ka'Deem Carey comes with the most impressive college resume, Shaun Draughn has something working in is favor, too. Experience.

Draughn, who signed with the Bears in April, is in his fourth season and spent training camp last season with the Chiefs, learning a West Coast offense under Andy Reid that has similarities to the one coach Marc Trestman has installed. Draughn also has the wisdom to understand that yardage production during camp and in exhibitions will make up only a fraction of his evaluation.

"Everybody here can run the ball," Draughn said. "What else can you do?"

Draughn's crisp route running will be a plus. His pass protection reliability will prove significant as well.

"It's part of the trust," Draughn said. "You have to know where to be, when to be there and how to be there. That's throughout the league. If you can't protect, you can't play. They're spending millions and millions of dollars on the quarterback, you better be able to protect their investment."

Back in action: Kyle Long's return to pads is scheduled for Saturday night when the Bears have a night practice at Soldier Field. Long has missed seven camp practices because of a viral infection and will be eased back into things this weekend.

Said Trestman: ""I think he'll do individual (work). If we're on schedule here. He may do more than individual. But I wouldn't count on it. Our goals are to get him in pads (Saturday) night and then get him through individual. And then we'll see where he is on Sunday (no practice) and work in a positive way to get him on the field Monday."

Next man up: Michael Ola worked in Long's right guard spot Friday with the first-unit offense, still working to get comfortable after playing his previous two seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Ola, who can play tackle as well, is a harsh but honest self-critic and has been focusing during camp on staying "rooted" in pass blocking sets without having heavy feet.

To this point, he has looked worthy of a reserve role up front.

dwiederer@tribune.com

Twitter @danwiederer