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updated: 12/4/2011 9:20 PM

Forte's injury costly in more ways than one

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  • Bears running back Matt Forte walks off the field after an injury to his right knee in the first quarter Sunday at Soldier Field.

      Bears running back Matt Forte walks off the field after an injury to his right knee in the first quarter Sunday at Soldier Field.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer


The Bears might have had worse days than losing a game and running back Matt Forte all at once.

When Gale Sayers' knee exploded. When Walter Payton retired miles before his time. When Cade McNown was drafted in the first round.

Sunday felt like it ranked right up there. Or down there.

Things are monumentally awful when a final score is held up next to an X-ray to determine which is more depressing.

A 10-3 loss to Kansas City would have inspired enough angst for the Bears even if they had remained healthy.

But Forte went down in a heap during the first quarter after a Chiefs helmet crashed into his knee. He was gone for the day, and the preliminary prognosis is that he will be out 2-4 weeks.

So, now, the dance between Forte and the Bears over his future compensation escalates toward a different level.

Forte has gambled all season on his health, turning down the Bears' contract offer of somewhere around $14 million guaranteed.

Declining both that deal and the option to withhold his services until the Bears anted up closer to $20 million guaranteed, the last thing Forte needed was ligament damage.

Maybe when Forte was on the turf he wondered, "Is my career over and did I really need that extra $6 million to be happy?"

Maybe Bears management saw him lying on the turf and wondered, "Will we miss the playoffs now and is it really worth that extra $6 million?"

You see, speculation now is that Forte won't bet on his health any further and he'll stay on the sidelines until he gets his money or is 100 percent healed.

With only four weeks left in the regular season, that means Forte might sit out long enough that the Bears really can squander the playoff berth they seemed certain to secure.

So maybe Forte isn't the only one who gambled here. Maybe the Bears did, too.

Quarterback Jay Cutler already is out with an injury. If Forte sits four games instead of two, the pathetic offensive performance against the Chiefs indicated what's ahead.

"It's part of the game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

He might have been referring to injuries, contract disputes or a player in a contract dispute being injured.

Nobody is to blame here because it's just NFL business as usual.

The Bears made their offer. Forte countered with his demand. They stood firm in looking out for their best interests by drawing a financial line. Now he'll stand firm in looking out for his best interests by refusing to risk further damage to the knee.

If the Bears fail to qualify for the playoffs, they'll still believe their standing on principle and so will Forte.

It comes down to the Bears' present against Forte's future. They have the financial leverage, he has the competitive leverage, and the gap isn't close to closing.

If Forte could come back in two weeks at 80 percent, don't expect the Bears to give in and give him the money he wants so he'll play those final two games and they'll make the playoffs.

Make no mistake about it: With Cutler already out, possibly for the duration of the season, the Bears need Forte.

As Bears receiver Roy Williams said of Forte, "He leads the team in rushing, he leads the team in receiving, when a guy like that goes down …"

Williams didn't have to finish. When a guy like Forte goes down, he and his team experience a really bad day.

Especially when money matters make it seem so much worse for everyone involved.

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