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Saturday, December 10, 2011
Have at It: Matt Forte and his future

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

I'll say this: You didn't offer much push back this week to the idea that Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte should proceed cautiously while timing his return from a knee injury that typically takes 2-4 weeks to heal. The only debate was the extent of caution Forte should proceed with.

Metalheadhead65 counseled Forte to "take his time and not come back until he is 100 percent healthy." Forte has "proved his value already," noted Donny_Donowitz. The Bears, wrote Biggest Cheese, don't deserve more than that: "If the Bears wanted a running back who would do whatever it takes to get back on the field for a playoff push even though it might make sense to rest, they should've paid for one. Instead, they're getting what they paid for: a back who needs to make sure he's healthy if he's ever going to get a pay day."

Matt Forte
Matt Forte's knee injury has him sidelined for at least two weeks.
Forte hasn't received the contract extension he has been seeking, and even before the injury occurred, the Bears seemed prepared to place the franchise tag on him this winter. As a result, some of you see the injury has an opportunity to begin an early holdout. Wrote craig.a.m.long:

"This had to be an awakening experience. Had he actually torn a ligament or done permanent damage to his knee, his career could be over. I would hobble into the Bears' front office and say that I wasn't risking injury on this knee until I got a new contract. If they wanted to wait and not have me for the playoff push, even after I was healthy, that's on them. The best part of this is that, even if the front office claimed you were holding out, you could simply say your knee wasn't healed yet."

Even Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe tweeted: "If I'm Matt Forte I've played my last gm under my present contract,he's been the ideal pro and his reward a sprain mcl,nope can't do it."

That was a minority view, however. Forte hasn't gotten the lucrative extension he has been seeking, but he is being paid $35,254 per week to play when he's able. Fuszerelli wrote: "If he is 100% healthy, he should come back. He has a binding contract he was happy to sign and he should fulfill it. If he is not 100%, he should sit. He should not assume any additional risk above and beyond what a 100% healthy player assumes. He needs to protect his earning power as much as he can while fulfilling his contract."

Added Lead2Victory: "Two wrongs don't make a right. Forte should come back on his terms for sure, but I hope that he will want to be on the field for his teammates as soon as possible."

My take? Forte has been in a tough spot all year and to this point has handled it perfectly, producing the best season of his career in response to a disappointing financial offer from the Bears. There is no better way to deal with that kind of disappointment.

I would understand if Forte feels trapped. The Bears haven't made him a bigger offer because they don't have to. They can franchise him in 2012, pay him about $7.7 million, and then decide whether to do it again in 2013 or cast him aside for a younger player.

And I'm glad to see few of you held the old "your teammates are counting on you" leverage over Forte. That might be true, but it's not as important as your long-term physical and fiscal health. Some might consider that selfish, but I think it would selfish for a teammate to expect a player to sacrifice either of those priorities for the team in a professional environment.

In the end, Forte needs to continue doing what he has done all season: honor his contract. When his knee is healed and feels normal, he should resume playing -- whenever that might be.