Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte returns to Slidell to teach kids football, help purchase gear
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012, 2:39 AM
By Tammy Nunez, The Times-Picayune
As Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte surveyed the Slidell Youth Football Association fields on Saturday and the nearly 250 kids who showed for his camp, it was all fun.
"You've got to have fun first," said Forte, a former Tulane Green Wave star. "Fun and then business. If you're not having fun out there, you shouldn't be playing. This is about the fun part."
Grant Therkildsen/The Times PicayuneChicago Bears running back Matt Forte demonstrates leads a drill during his youth football camp on Saturday in Slidell.
But the Slidell High product can't get away from the business of football this offseason. The Bears slapped Forte with the franchise tag this spring, capping his earnings this year at $7.7 million if a contract isn't worked out in the meantime. It's a $7 million raise according to reports, but not the multi-year deal he seeks.
According to reports, Forte, 26, is looking for something like the five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million guaranteed that Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams. Forte was offered a deal that guaranteed about $13 million or $14 million, according to reports, but rejected the offer.
"I'm just excited about the season," he said. "I don't worry too much about what's going to happen in the future because I already know I'm taken care of. Whatever God has in plans for you, you're going to get it. So I don't really worry myself about what is going to happen with all that. I just prepare to play football and when the time comes to go out there that's what I'm going to do."
Forte, a Pro Bowl back, amassed 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing in his fourth season for a career-high average of 4.9 yards per carry. He also had a career-high in runs of 20-plus yards (12) and ranked eight in yards per game (83.1).
Forte is the first Bears running back to be picked to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson after the 1991 season.
Recent running back deals might set the stage for the kind of long-term contract Forte could get. The Philadelphia Eagles gave running back LeSean McCoy a five-year, $45 million extension recently. In March, Houston Texans back Arian Foster received a five-year, $43.5 million deal.
"It's my career, so I'm going to have to handle it myself as well (relying on his agent to reach terms)," Forte said. "There were a lot of running backs that were in free agency and a couple of guys -- Arian, LeSean -- they got signed in the end. Ray (Rice) and I got the franchise tag. So hopefully everything works out."
"Matt is an important part of our football team, and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond."
The only money that mattered on Saturday in Slidell, however, was the $15,000 Forte donated to the Slidell Youth Football Association for equipment. Slidell youth who sign up for the league have to purchase equipment in addition to registration costs. Forte said he wants the Slidell youth to have the same opportunities he had.
"When I played, when you signed up you got a helmet and shoulder pads and all that stuff, and I think now they are having trouble with the equipment and getting stuff. So I want to buy some of the equipment so some of the guys can have (it) and they don't have to pay for it on their own," Forte said.
Forte's biggest contributions to the day might have been simply his presence, according to Slidell Coach Artie Liuzza, who worked the camp alongside Salmen, other Slidell staff and Northshore high school coaches as well as other volunteers.
"He is a tremendous role model," Liuzza said. "I know there are a lot knuckleheads in pro sports and kids do look towards them, but this is a guy they should be looking at because he's a total package."
Liuzza is just hoping Forte makes good on a promise from long ago. "It's funny I used to tease him all the time about when he gets the NFL that he would send me tickets. He has yet to do that," Liuzza joked.
Related topics: chicago bears, green wave, matt forte