- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The quarterback said back in June that he'd be "shocked" if the franchise-tagged Forte didn't sign his franchise tender and report to camp on time. But Cutler admitted Wednesday on ESPN 1000's "Carmen, Jurko & Harry" show that "we don't know what's gonna happen."
"It's a business on both ends," Cutler said. "So if and when we get Matt back, we're happy to have him."
With the Bears operating out of a different scheme offensively under new coordinator Mike Tice, Cutler said the team's preference would be to "have (Forte back with the team) a little bit earlier," but added that physically, the running back is capable of performing at a high level with little practice time because of his workout acumen.
"I think physically, he can do it, no question about it," Cutler said of a potential late report date for Forte. "The guy is an absolute gym rat. He works out all the time. Physically, being able to go out there and play a game, I think Matt can probably do that tomorrow."
The concern, while small, would be how quickly Forte adjusted to some of the nuances of the system, which will remain similar to what the club did in 2011 in terms of the rushing attack.
"Running-game wise, we have a lot of rollover (from last season).
There's gonna be a little bit of change," Cutler said. "There's only so much Matt can do from the backfield passing-game wise. A lot of that stuff is gonna be familiar to him. There's gonna be some verbiage that Matt's gonna have to learn. But Matt's one of those very very smart, intellectual players. He picks things up the first time he does it. If he makes a mistake, he won't do that mistake again."
The club and Forte face a July 16 deadline to work out a long-term extension. If the sides can't agree to an extension, Forte -- franchised in March -- will play the 2012 season under the tag, which would pay approximately $7.7 million.
In recent weeks, Forte expressed optimism about the fact the sides continue to talk. But it's still unclear whether the running back plans to stage a holdout during training camp. He's hinted as much throughout the offseason, but knows at some point he'll have to rejoin the Bears.
"I don't think I really have a choice, do I?" Forte said in June.
"Yeah, I'll be here."
If Forte decides to hold out and miss regular-season games, he'll end up losing approximately $455,000 for each week of the season he missed. Considering Forte received $600,000 in 2011, it's unlikely he'd be willing to part with close to that amount on a weekly basis during the 2012 season. But a training camp holdout remains a definite possibility if the sides don't reach a new deal by July 16.
"I'm not worried about Matt," Cutler said. "If we have a short amount of time with Matt, he's gonna be fine."
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1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo