Bears prez discusses Matt Forte

Updated: August 11, 2011, 8:26 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

BOURBONNAIS -- Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips doesn't anticipate running back Matt Forte sitting out of Saturday's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

In fact, Phillips expressed optimism about the sides coming to an agreement on a long-term deal "sooner rather than later."

"I don't think that's going to be an issue," said Phillips, when asked on the Waddle & Silvy show Thursday about the possibility of Forte missing Saturday's game. "I think you'll be seeing Matt Forte playing on Saturday. My understanding is his initial concern [was about] all the hoopla about the field on Friday, but I think that's not going to be a concern come Saturday."

Set to earn $550,000 in base salary in the final year of his original rookie contract, Forte indicated that safety concerns -- in the midst of the sides negotiating an extension -- made him consider possibly missing the exhibition opener.

But Forte never voiced those concerns to the organization.

"You probably know that his agent Adisa Bakari was out at training camp one of the first couple of days, because I was there," Phillips said. "I had a chance to meet him. He chatted with a few people. From talking to [general manager] Jerry Angelo and [contract negotiator] Cliff [Stein] the goal is to work on a long-term extension for Matt. It takes two sides to get a deal done. I'm optimistic that we'll get something done, and I would say to you that the goal is to get it done sooner rather than later."

Bears coach Lovie Smith also expects to see Forte on the field Saturday.

"I expect all the guys to be ready to play if we tell them. Again, we'll make those decisions a little bit later," he said. "But you just look at what Matt's doing, love everything he's done. Why wouldn't he be ready to go?"

Forte hinted on Monday he would consider the possibility of sitting out preseason games.

"I've considered not playing in the preseason games," Forte told the Chicago Tribune. "But just to make that a fact, and say 'I'm not going to,' I haven't gotten there yet."

On Thursday he told the Associated Press the situation remains much the same.

"I said it's possible I would consider it," Forte said. "Nothing has changed."

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players can be fined $30,000 a day for holding out.

"That's the way it is," Forte said of the fines. "You've got to deal with it if you decide to do it."

Since coming into the NFL in 2008 as a second-rounder out of Tulane, Forte ranks No. 5 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (4,731) behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and St. Louis' Steven Jackson.

Interestingly, Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams isn't among those top producers. But Williams still managed to nab a five-year contract worth $43 million, including $21 million guaranteed, despite gaining 1,304 fewer yards from scrimmage than Forte in the same time span, while scoring just three more touchdowns (28).

So the tricky part for the Bears is they'll likely have to beat Williams' numbers on any deal with Forte because they'd need to offer a contract lucrative enough to entice the running back to forgo his first, and likely last, shot at free agency.

Other things to consider: Forte is 25 years old, while Williams signed his new contract at 28; and Forte possesses the specific skill set -- elusiveness in space, and effectiveness as a receiving threat (he tied for the team lead in receptions in 2010) -- to thrive in Mike Martz's offense.

Martz likes Forte's potential, adding that he possesses many of the same skills as Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, who played an integral part during the success of the St. Louis Rams with Martz as the offensive coordinator.

"Matt has terrific receiving skills. Marshall immediately could go outside; Matt can do those things. He's a tall guy with exceptional speed, the quick change of direction," Martz said. "He's really terrific inside with a great jump cut. He's still learning the run reads and refining his skills. I think he could be absolutely exceptional."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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