We're Black and Blue All Over:
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- While I was scurrying this way and that Monday at the NFL owners meetings, Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips was addressing the future of tailback Matt Forte with Chicago-area reporters. As you know, Forte did not react well to the signing of backup Michael Bush and apparently there have been low-level trade rumors as a result because he has not yet signed his franchise tender.
Coach Lovie Smith threw water on the fire Sunday in a conversation with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, and via Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, Phillips said: "Matt is going to be a Bear." Phillips added: "Our goal with Matt is to keep him a Bear as long as possible. We have made offers on long-term deals that we think reward him at a high level, the level he deserves. We haven't been able to reach common ground. The door is open to keep talking. If we get a deal done, we'll be happy. If we don't, then the deal we have is the franchise tag and we'll see what happens after this year."
The remaining piece of this puzzle is the value of the long-term deal Forte has turned down. As a result, we don't know if the dispute is based on a lowball offer from the Bears or an inflated value Forte has established for himself. But obviously the sides are nowhere close at the moment, and the question shifts to whether Forte will play under the terms of the $7.74 million franchise tag or if he will stay away from training camp when it opens in July.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Bears defensive lineman Amobi Okoye is scheduled to visit with the Cincinnati Bengals, reports Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
The Detroit Lions are confident in their nucleus of players, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't know if there was a bounty placed on any Lions players before their wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press explains.
It seems unlikely that the Lions will sign defensive end Cliff Avril to a long-term contract anytime soon, writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Don't underestimate the Green Bay Packers in free agency, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson on receiving four compensatory draft picks, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "More is better."
The Packers might do away with night practices in training camp, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The Minnesota Vikings made a strong push to sign free-agent receiver Pierre Garcon, writes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The Star Tribune examines the majority support of a Vikings stadium from the Minneapolis City Council.
Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf on the team's offseason approach, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "We want to win right away, too. But the main thing is we want to be first-rate and first-class on a consistent basis."