With each passing week Matt Forte earns more respect from me on the field and less respect off it.
The disgruntled Bears running back is on pace to break team records and could finish with more yards from scrimmage in a single season than anyone in league history with a little more good fortune. Barring an unforeseen setback, he’s headed for his first career Pro Bowl appearance at season’s end, and few players in the league mean more to his team’s offense than Forte does to the Bears.
But Forte is getting a little too chatty in the media regarding his contract dispute with the organization and it’s ruining the feel-good vibe he created by showing up to training camp on time and participating in preseason games after floating the idea he might skip them.
In the Sun-Times on Wednesday, Forte was interviewed by Sean Jensen and did not have nice things to say about Bears management.
“I love the team, I love my teammates, I love the coaches and I love Chicago,” Forte said, when asked if not receiving a contract extension affects his desire to remain with the team. “But when management messes with you like that, it puts you in the mind frame of wanting to go to a team that desires you.”
For a guy who supposedly loves his teammates, he obviously hasn’t learned much from perhaps the most prominent one, the face of the franchise for the past decade.
Said linebacker Brian Urlacher last month: “There’s a business side. There’s a football side. They’re two separate things. All we can do is play and go out there and do the best we can do and hopefully that will take care of itself.”
Forte apparently must think the two sides are rolled into one because he doesn’t quite understand the business side of football.
As I noted last week, the Bears are in the driver’s seat in the contract negotiations with Forte. They have all the leverage because they could control his rights until he’s 28 — and even longer if Forte foolishly decides to hold out.
The Bears and Forte aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on more than just the dollar amount for a new contract. Forte sees his production on the field this year as proof that he deserves to be one of the highest-paid running backs in the league. The Bears see Forte’s production as evidence that they should not buy stock when it’s at its highest point. It doesn’t make for good business.
“Matt has a desire to remain a Chicago Bear,” said Forte’s agent, Adisa Bakari. “But he wants to be treated fairly … the way other teams have treated their top-performing players. Nothing more, nothing less.”
And who determines what is fair, Bakari? You? You’re biased. You’re the player’s agent, so of course you’re going to feel he deserves to be among the highest paid at his position.
But the Bears have been fair and they offered a contract extension commensurate with Forte’s production through the first three years of his career. Just because one team makes a bad business decision — the Panthers re-signed running back DeAngelo Williams to a five-year, $43 million deal that includes $21 million in guarantees — doesn’t mean the Bears should follow that bad business model.
Forte’s going to get paid at some point and he’ll get his contract extension if and only if he lowers his demands. But in the meantime, he would do right not to speak out in the media and publicly denigrate the organization because he won’t receive any respect from outsiders that way, nor will the Bears give him a penny more after that kind of attack.
The best advice Forte can take is that from his beloved teammate. He needs to refuse answering questions from the media about his contract and, as Urlacher said, “go out there and do the best [he] can do and hopefully that will take care of itself.”