Injured Matt Forte unsure of return

Updated: December 7, 2011, 10:16 AM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears star running back Matt Forte can't promise when he can return from a sprained right knee, but he's not ready for his season to be over.

Forte's status for the rest of the season is in question after he left in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with a sprained medial collateral ligament, another major blow for a team trying to land a playoff spot in the NFC. Forte's injury came two weeks after quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb late in a victory over San Diego.

The Bears (7-5) have dropped two straight since then after winning five in a row, and although coach Lovie Smith has said he expects both players to return, neither is making any guarantees.

Forte, who said players with injuries like his generally miss two to six weeks, had platelet rich plasma injected into his right knee Tuesday. PRP shots are used on athletes to speed up the healing process by injecting their own blood, which contains a high concentration of platelets and growth factors, into the damaged ligament or tendons.

"I did that this morning actually," Forte said Tuesday night at a fan appearance at a Magnificent Mile store in Chicago. "I got that injected and hopefully it's going to heal that faster."

Already missing their star quarterback, the Bears' fortunes took another bad turn when Forte got hit in the right knee by the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson on a run for no gain deep in Chicago territory with six minutes left in the first quarter against Kansas City.

He stayed down for several minutes while being tended to by medical personnel before walking off the field on his own power. He remained on the sideline for a short while and headed to the locker room, with five carries and 12 yards.

"I saw (the hole)," Forte said. "I planted my leg in the ground to go to the left, to go outside. (Johnson) kind of slipped under the block, hit me right in the knee. It was a good play by him. Unfortunately, his helmet hit me right on the knee and my leg was planted in the ground."

Forte couldn't move at first. His leg was burning, but once the pain subsided, he was able to leave the field on his own power, which was a relief for him.

Forte said he exhaled when he found out he only sprained the MCL

"I don't want to give a timetable because I really don't know exactly how long it's going to take, because it varies," Forte said. "I'm just going to do everything I can. I got the PRP shot. That makes it heal up faster."

Forte isn't settling for PRP injections, ice and an aggressive rehab schedule. He's open to other recovery methods.

"My friend Tommie Harris, who used to play here, he has a hyperbaric chamber he might let me borrow," Forte said. "I'll try that."

Forte sprained his MCL two years ago and had the worst season of his career. Still, he played all 16 games.

"They're different because my leg was actually in the air. This time, my leg was planted in the ground so it was more severe," he said. "I just got to try to get the swelling out, get the soreness out to where I can start being more functional."

Forte's contract dispute has been one of the biggest storylines in the NFL this season. According to sources, Forte, who is playing on his rookie deal as a four-year veteran, had turned down a deal worth between $13 million and $14 million during training camp and the Bears didn't come up with an agreeable counter-offer. The Bears and Forte's representation then mutually suspended contract negotiations. He can be franchise tagged next season, but he has been vocal about the team's perceived unwillingness to reward his stellar play.

Forte came into Sunday's game with 985 yards rushing and 490 yards receiving, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage. He gained 12 yards before being injured Sunday.

Forte dismissed speculation that he might not return because of the contract status.

"I'm at 997 rushing, to be three yards away from 1,000 kind of sucks not to be able to be out there," he said. "I want to be hurry up and get back and hopefully I'm 100 percent when I get back."

Was the failure to get guaranteed money on his mind when he was being examined on the Soldier Field turf?

"I was hoping I didn't have to have surgery," he said. "(The contract) wasn't the first thought in my mind."

Was it second?

"Maybe the second," he said.

With Forte out, the Bears will rely on Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell to carry the load.

Barber ran for 44 yards on 14 attempts against the Chiefs. He also lined up illegally, wiping out his 4-yard touchdown catch and forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal in the first half. Bell finished with 34 yards on four carries.

Clearly, the Bears are in a difficult spot without Forte and Cutler.

"Everybody has to be up to the challenge and work through it," Forte said. "I think the guys on our team are able to work through that. They have a lot of resilience. We have a lot of resilient guys on our team, a lot of character on our team, so I think they'll be fine. They're not really too down about it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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