Forte considers sitting out exhibition games
Forte considers sitting out exhibition games if he doesn't get new contract
BOURBONNAIS — Matt Forte may sit out exhibition games to protect himself if he doesn't have a new contract, and now the shoddy field conditions at Soldier Field give the Bears running back another cause for concern.
General manager Jerry Angelo said there is no timetable for the Bears to complete a contract extension for Forte. Maybe the team would benefit from waiting well into the season because an angry running back is a hungry one. But fortunately for Forte that doesn't seem to be the intention as Angelo said he's "motivated" to get a deal done.
But if Forte doesn't have a new contract in place before the preseason opener Saturday at Soldier Field against the Bills, he may choose to sit out.
"I've considered not playing in the preseason games," Forte told the Tribune. "But just to make that a fact, and say 'I'm not going to,' I haven't gotten there yet."
Forte considered a holdout before camp like the one Chris Johnson has going with the Titans but showed the Bears he's committed to a strong year and good-faith negotiations by reporting. It was a good move on his part, considering the club's policy of refusing to crunch contract numbers with holdouts.
The preseason can chew up running backs. Consider what three teams experienced last summer: The Bears were playing in Cleveland in the exhibition finale when Browns running back Montario Hardesty suffered a torn ACL. The door swung wide open for Arian Foster in Houston when Ben Tate, a second-round draft pick, suffered a severe ankle injury. In Buffalo, Fred Jackson (broken hand) and Marshawn Lynch (high ankle sprain) both were injured in the first exhibition game.
It's why LaDainian Tomlinson got only 14 preseason carries from 2001 to 2008 with San Diego. He and the Chargers didn't want to see his future left on the field in a meaningless game.
Now, Forte also has to consider the shoddy sod at Soldier Field after practice was canceled Friday because of unsafe seams in the grass, the kind that could lead to a twisted ankle or knee.
"Any time the field is not good enough to practice on that is a concern," Forte said. "There is always a concern with injuries. You can get injured going out to practice.
"I have to talk to coach (Lovie Smith) and talk to Jerry and my agent (Adisa Bakari). We'd have to have a big meeting to really talk about (sitting out preseason games until a contract is complete)."
There is a risk in practicing. Bears running back Cedric Benson suffered a dislocated elbow in a training camp practice in 2006.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed significantly higher risk in exhibition games than training camp practices. The study, over a 10-year period, determined injuries are five times more likely in games than practices. On average, there was one major injury (requiring surgery or landing a player on injured reserve) every two preseason games as opposed to every 28 practices.
Bakari attended practice last week and met with negotiator Cliff Stein and Angelo. The Bears were cautious with Forte in the preseason a year ago, giving him only 12 carries, and Smith said he expects Forte to participate provided he's ready.
"We limit reps for everyone, but it's no different," Smith said. "Contracts don't play a part in anything with us. Matt's out here practicing every day."
Maybe a deal gets done this week.
"Ideally, that's what happens," Forte said. "But there is no telling."