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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Source: Matt Forte considers holdout

By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com

As news continues to trickle out about the Bears' inactivity in free agency and seemingly bizarre decisions, running back Matt Forte likely complicated matters by contemplating a training-camp holdout.

Forte made no secrets about wanting to sign a long-term extension before the start of training camp.

Now, he's considering not reporting Friday with teammates in Bourbonnais, according to a league source.

"It would be nice [to get an extension done]," Forte told ESPNChicago.com from the Super Bowl earlier this year. ""It's always nice to have something like that happen. It's really up to my agent [Adisa Bakari] and the Bears to negotiate it. I just want to stay informed with what they're talking about. I love playing for the Bears, and I think it's a great organization. I just want to continue to succeed and play well for them."

Interestingly, Titans running back Chris Johnson -- also seeking a lucrative extension -- plans to take a similar course of action. 49ers running back Frank Gore staged Day 1 of his holdout on Thursday. For financially established players such as Johnson and Gore, a holdout likely wouldn't be as damaging as it would be for Forte, whose rookie contract included $2 million guaranteed.

According to rules in the new CBA, veterans staging holdouts will be fined $30,000 for each day of camp missed.

Since entering the NFL in 2008 as a second-round pick out of Tulane, Forte ranks fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (4,731), behind Johnson, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and St. Louis' Steven Jackson.

Add in Forte's 294 yards from the 2010 postseason, and Forte ranks fourth among all active running backs over the past three years in yards from scrimmage (5,025) behind Peterson (5,643), Johnson (5,606) and Baltimore's Ray Rice (5,038).

Yet Forte is scheduled to earn $550,000 in base salary in the final year of his rookie contract, while his primary backup, Chester Taylor, pocketed $7 million in 2010 in the first year of a $12.5 million contract, and is set earn $1.25 million in 2011.

Forte ranks seventh in franchise history in career rushing yards (3,236), and last season became the first player in Bears history to gain at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three seasons.

So, realistically, the statistics indicate Forte has outperformed his rookie contract.

Of the 2008 draft class of running backs, only Johnson and Rice have more yards from scrimmage than Forte, and only Johnson has scored more touchdowns (38 to Forte's 25). Yet as valuable as he's proven to be, Forte simply isn't an immediate priority for a team looking to bolster a weak offensive line and sign its own free agents and draft picks, in addition to filling various holes in the roster.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.