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updated: 8/14/2011 8:47 PM

Bears need not rush to pay Forte

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  • While it might not seem fair to Matt Forte, the best move for the Bears would be to wait before rewarding their running back with any long-term deal.

      While it might not seem fair to Matt Forte, the best move for the Bears would be to wait before rewarding their running back with any long-term deal.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer


As sports go, there is no bigger business than football, and as football goes, there is no crueler business than the NFL.

Welcome to the world of Matt Forte.

Three years after entering the league, Forte has sandwiched good years around one fair, the latter due mostly to injury, according to Forte.

Which is precisely why the Bears ought to wait before handing him a big contract extension.

If he can make it through most of this season without a major injury, then they ought to consider a team-friendly and rewarding deal.

But by then he'll be nearly finished with four years in the league, and Forte's career as a running back could be approaching the downside.

Happens all the time in the NFL, especially to running backs.

At the same time, you have the Packers winning a Super Bowl with James Starks, a sixth-round rookie running back from Buffalo who didn't play his senior year, didn't play in training camp and didn't make his NFL debut until late last season.

Of course, Mike Martz will tell you that Forte is the perfect back for his offense and Martz has Forte headed for the Hall of Fame, a la Marshall Faulk and the Greatest Show on Turf.

The Bears seem to be banking everything on Martz this season, with so many moves dictated by the Greatest Show on Mud.

But if the Bears decide on a big contract extension for the fourth-year back they shouldn't do it because of Martz, who may not last here more than another year.

If they need to do it, it ought to be a result of Forte's performance this season and the belief that he will stay healthy -- a crapshoot for any NFL running back and even more so playing behind the Bears' offensive line.

J'Marcus Webb's first game at left tackle didn't exactly inspire confidence, while rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi continues to learn the offense.

Roberto Garza, the team's best guard, appeared a bit slow Saturday starting at center, and the guards didn't threaten to get in the Pro Bowl mix after one exhibition game.

You have to believe Mike Tice will be tinkering with the line the next three weeks, and it's possible not a single offensive lineman will be in the same spot in Week 1 as they were for the first preseason game.

It is a work in progress, to say the least.

That all plays against Forte as he tries to prove his worth over the next month or two, and it's yet another reason the Bears should wait.

So far, everyone's saying the right things.

Bears GM Jerry Angelo claims he wants to get something done and has promised to work toward that end.

Forte has continued to practice, and he showed up for the first preseason game, despite conversation about boycotting both.

He's seemingly a good guy who has worked very hard, and this off-season produced an even bigger and stronger Forte designed to take even more punishment.

Since arriving in Chicago in 2008, Forte has been extremely productive, ranking fifth among all backs in yards from scrimmage behind only the likes of Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Steven Jackson.

The 25-year-old Forte is woefully underpaid by NFL standards, collecting $550,000 this season as he finishes a four-year rookie contract worth $3.7 million.

The Bears' backup running backs also will take home more than twice as much as Forte, and others around the league in Forte's position have received -- or will soon receive -- huge extensions.

And unfortunately for Forte, none of it should matter to the Bears.

NFL standards are not Angelo's problem. His only concern should be what's best for the Bears, and the brutal reality is that running backs go downhill quickly and in many cases are easily replaceable.

Maybe they're not in the Martz offense, but again the Bears must think about the potentially short shelf life of the Martz offense.

So while there seems to be a ton of public sentiment and an equal measure of pressure on Angelo and the Bears to get this done, it's worth remembering that at this time last year the Bears weren't sure if they even had a running back.

So they shouldn't be in any rush right now to judge Matt Forte -- or to pay him.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM. Follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.