- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte said Wednesday that he's not looking to be the NFL's highest-paid running back, but is seeking a long-term contract commensurate with his standing among other players around the league at his position.
Ranked the 33rd-best player on NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2012," Forte was asked on the network's reaction show whether he felt disrespected by the franchise in his quest to land a new deal.
"All you can ask for is respect, and you go out there and you do your best to earn it. Respect isn't given to anybody," Forte said Wednesday. "You've got to earn it out there. So the way I go about playing the game, preparing for it and the way I play, I feel I have earned the respect.
"As far as being disrespected, I don't know. Maybe it's just the business side of the league. It's unfortunate that when the organization does treat it as a business (but) when a player does, he gets frowned upon. You have to do what's best for you and your family.
"All my teammates know I'm gonna be there for them, give my best out there and my heart out there on the field."
In 2011, Forte -- despite missing four games with a sprained MCL -- led a Bears rushing attack that surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark (2,015 yards) for just the second time in the past 21 seasons. Forte rushed for a team-high 997 yards and boosted the passing game with 52 receptions for 490 yards.
In doing so, Forte became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards or more from scrimmage in each of his first four seasons.
In addition, Forte joined Walter Payton, Neal Anderson and Gale Sayers as Bears players to produce four seasons of 1,000 yards or more from scrimmage.
"This is Matt's life," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said Tuesday.
"He's come out here, and he's put his life and his mind and body on the field for all of us. He's given a lot of thrills to the city of Chicago, and everyone has seen what he's capable of doing and what he means to our team."
Forte sustained a season-ending sprained right medial collateral knee ligament in a Dec. 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs but said the recovery process has been relatively easy.
"I had a lot of down time going into the offseason. I pretty much was healed up before the Pro Bowl," Forte said. "So it's been a while since then. I've just been training with my regular trainers and getting prepared for the season coming up."
Among the running backs ranked on the NFL Network's top 100 players, Forte was No. 7 at his position. Forte believes the knee injury against the Chiefs might have lowered his standing.
"I love to compete, and I train hard and work hard so I can be considered amongst the top running backs," he said. "For six backs to be ahead, I don't know about that. I feel like maybe if I would have finished through the season, I may have been top 10 on the 100 players list. Unfortunately, that injury happened."
According to sources, the Bears -- looking to kick-start negotiations -- recently reached out to Forte, but the caveat to continuing talks is that the running back must sign the franchise tender the team extended in March. The NFL deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign multiyear extensions is July 16.
If the sides can't come to agreement on a new deal by the deadline, Forte must play under the franchise tag, which will pay approximately $7.7 million.
Forte scoffed at the presumption he'd like to become the NFL's highest-paid back.
"Definitely no," Forte said. "I just want to be given a contract where I rank among some of the top running backs; not the top paid or highest paid or anything like that. I just want to be recognized as one of the best."
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