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updated: 9/7/2011 9:40 PM

Stalled contract talks frustrate Bears' Forte

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  • Bears running back Matt Forte was all smiles on the sidelines during the Bears' playoff win against Seattle last season, but he's not happy now that talks over a contract extension have been put on hold.

      Bears running back Matt Forte was all smiles on the sidelines during the Bears' playoff win against Seattle last season, but he's not happy now that talks over a contract extension have been put on hold.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Matt Forte doesn't sound like someone who's going to easily be able to put the disappointment behind him.

The Bears' running back was expecting to get a contract extension before Sunday's season opener.

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"I'm under contract," he said. "I'm disappointed, kind of frustrated that it didn't get done. As a player, you're taught that this league is based off production, and you expect for a team to notice that and to get paid based off your production.

"I was expecting to get paid just like some of the other backs who produced similar to me. That didn't happen, so obviously I've got to continue to play under my regular contract."

The Bears have spoken with Forte's agent, Adisa Bakari, several times since the league's labor issues were settled in late July, but it's uncertain how much progress was made.

Unconfirmed reports say the Bears weren't offering more than $13 million in guaranteed money. Forte was looking for at least $15 million and perhaps closer to the $21 million in guaranteed money that DeAngelo Williams got from the Carolina Panthers on a five-year deal worth a total of $43 million.

"Offers were made," Forte said. "I'm not going to talk specifics. As a player, this business is production based. You expect to be paid based similar (to) guys who produce like I've produced, and that didn't happen."

Shortly after the Bears reported to training camp, general manager Jerry Angelo expressed a desire to work on an extension for Forte, who has one year left on the contract he signed after being drafted in the second round in 2008.

That deal was for $3.781 million over four years and included a signing bonus of $1.533 million and a total of $2 million in guaranteed money. Forte is scheduled to collect $555,000 in base pay this year.

Forte considered holding out, but he said conversations with Angelo convinced him to show up on time at training camp.

"It never benefits a player or a team for somebody to hold out," Forte said the day the Bears reported to Olivet Nazarene University. "It's not a good deal on either end.

"I kind of got my mind put to ease by Jerry (Angelo). He had been in talks with my agent since the end of the lockout and even before that, and he kind of said that a deal would get done.

"He assured us repeatedly that a deal would get done. Where I'm from and how I was raised, when somebody gives you their word that goes a long way."

But now it looks like it could go until next off-season.

Forte was paid a base salary of $295,000 in 2008, when he rushed for 1,238 yards, a franchise record for rookies, and averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

In 2009, when he rushed for 929 yards on 258 carries (3.6-yard average) Forte's base salary was $385,000.

Last year, when his base pay was $470,000, Forte was 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, rushing for 1,069 yards and a career-best 4.5 yards per attempt and catching 51 passes for 547 yards.

He led the team with 63 receptions as a rookie, tied for second in 2009 with 57 catches, and tied for the team lead last season with 51.

Coach Lovie Smith is counting on the same level of play from Forte, regardless of his contract situation.

"If you know Matt, it's expected," Smith said. "He is a professional. That's how he's been since Day One, when he walked in the building. If there is something going on on the outside, it's on the outside. He hasn't brought it in at all.

"I've seen the same guy from the first day of training camp to today. And that's just going to work, trying to get better, asking questions. You can tell by his work on the football field.

"So does that surprise me with Matt? No. That's the type of guys we have on this team. That's what we expect them to do, too."

For now, the 25-year-old Tulane product will attempt to put the finances out of his mind, but that's easier said than done.

"I'm playing this year just like I play every year, just going into the season with no regrets about what I've done, no worries about injuries and all that stuff," Forte said.

"But I am human. I am going to be thinking about the contract situation and all that stuff and what happened."

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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