- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Forte expressed remorse on Wednesday over the failure to come to terms on a contract extension with the Bears before the start of the regular season. Bears general manager Jerry Angelo told the team's radio flagship on Monday it was a "mutual understanding" between the two sides to put the contract talks on hold.
"That was his decision," Forte said. "I can't really decide whether or not we continue to talk or not. He's the one we talked to, so the door is always open on my end.
"I'm a little surprised. I'm disappointed that it wasn't (done). Coming into the league you feel like this is supposed to be production based. When you produce in the offense, you expect the team or the organization to actually notice that compared to other guys. We just couldn't meet in the middle I guess."
Angelo told reporters at the start of training camp his "intent" was to sign Forte to an extension, but the general manager cautioned against assuming it would be an easy deal to finalize because the running back was not an unrestricted free agent. Angelo said the Bears handle deals differently when a player is still under contract, as opposed to an unrestricted free agent whose value is set on the open market.
Even though the talks stalled, Forte refused to accuse Angelo of breaking his word.
"I don't think he lied about that. We tried to get a deal done. Maybe they have a different view of the type of player they think I am," Forte said.
Since entering the NFL in 2008 as a second-rounder out of Tulane, Forte ranks fifth 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.
While San Francisco's Frank Gore (three-year, $21 million extension, $13.5 million guaranteed) and Carolina's DeAngelo Williams (five-year, $43 million, $21 million guaranteed) recently pocketed lucrative contracts, the Bears were believed to be using the six-year extension signed by Kansas City's Jamaal Charles as the baseline for a potential Forte deal.
A Bears source had told ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright that the team had offered Forte a deal worth $13-14 million guaranteed.
"We've spent a lot of time trying to work out an extension with Matt, and his agent did as much work as he could do," Angelo had said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to come to an agreement at this point, so we've decided that we're just going to focus on the season. That's something we talked about when we went into the negotiations.
"We were hopeful. Not saying the door is shut. But right now our focus is going to be on the season."
If the two parties are unable to reach agreement, the Bears could slap the franchise tag on Forte -- scheduled to earn $600,000 in the final year of his rookie contract -- heading into 2012, thus delaying his entry into free agency. Further complicating matters is the fact Forte plays the grueling running back position, where injuries are commonplace and teams are sometimes more reluctant to financially reward older players in the backfield.
Forte has touched the ball a combined 1,037 times (postseason included) since he entered the league in 2008.
"You can't go out there worried about (injuries)," Forte said. "If that was true, you'd go out there every game since my rookie year trying not to get injured. Maybe I wouldn't get to my fourth year in the league or something like that.
"Can't worry about that."
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright contributed to this report.
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