How Tarik Cohen Plans to Regain His Explosiveness

Bears running back enters a contract year looking for ways to be better physically while also finding a better niche within the offense

It might have looked to some Bears followers like Tarik Cohen slowed down last season and struggled.

He did.

"Definitely felt a lot toward the end the of the year that my body was deteriorating faster than I would normally feel, not faster but a little more," Cohen said Thursday during his conference call with Chicago media. "So, I feel like my hips were tight, lower back, and that's all from the hips."

Cohen called it a symptom of the season and his statistics showed this effect, but he thinks he's addressed the problem and is ready to come back in July for a crucial contract year.

"I've been doing yoga now, stretching more often and just like the small like training room in-house things you do to keep your body durable and to keep the wear and tear of the season off of you longer," Cohen said.

The 5-foot-6, 191-pound third-down back and punt returner finished a year with a career-low 3.3 yards per rush and career-low 5.8 yards per reception, although he made a career-high 79 receptions. He might joke about the reason for his body breaking down at the end of the year, but the 2017 fourth-round pick is only 24 years old with plenty of time left to make up for it.

"I think it was age, probably," he explained, causing a few chuckles. "Maybe it was like ... I feel like I haven’t been doing these things, the stretching. And I really slacked on that.

"Now I have to be the leader in the running back room. I'm like the vet guy, so to speak. I had Benny (Cunningham) before then. So I always had older guys that would keep me on that, keep me in line. 'Let's go to the training room.' Or I would see them in the training room and that would make me want to do it. I feel like (2019) I didn't have that. That goes to another part—not on the field, but that's another part I'm learning to step up this year, is, leadership in my position group and then spreading it to the whole team."

So Cohen admits the contract year is going to be huge. He is making $2.1 million in the fourth year of his rookie deal and a contract for a third-down style of running back is always a tricky thing to navigate.

"It's definitely a motivating factor being that this is the year," Cohen said. "I feel like I can't put any pressure on nobody else. It's all on me.

"That's how I like to go about it. I just take it upon myself, anything else like, I want to win as a team. I feel like if we win as a team that is good for everybody's individual success."

Coach Matt Nagy doesn't seem too consumed by what Cohen did last year.

"The beauty of sports, the beauty of life, to me the people that move on and succeed are the ones that forget about that," Nagy said. "You don’t live in the past. So I'll be really, really honest with you. That's gone. We don't care anymore about 2019. We don't care about 2018. We are in such a good place right now as a team mentally, schematically, personally each guy wanting to be a little better and understanding that if they focus on themselves that we will be better.

"So I don't even like bringing it up because we're in such a good place. I just know that Tarik has been great in meetings and I know that he's going to do everything possible to have a really good 2020 season."

Nagy did acknowledge it could have been symptomatic of the offense in general.

If it has anything to do with their offensive approach, Cohen thinks it truly is over because they're changing things up.

"I feel like we're just going to simplify things," Cohen said. "I feel like at times we just made things too hard on ourselves and we didn't have people guessing."

It's never easy to have people guessing when your body is breaking down at the age of 24, either.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven