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Bears, Matt Forte talking as deadline nears for long-term deal

Matt Forte (22) wasn’t thrilled thquarterback Jay Cutler said he’d be “shocked” if running back wasn’t signed camp. | David

Matt Forte (22) wasn’t thrilled that quarterback Jay Cutler said he’d be “shocked” if the running back wasn’t signed and in camp. | David J. Phillip~AP

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Updated: July 24, 2012 9:52AM

Matt Forte wasn’t exactly in his comfort zone.

Not when every interview he did Friday was interrupted by Hall of Famers such as Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin yelling, “Pay the man!’’ in the background.

Forte hopes someone in the Bears’ organization heard them.

“We’ve been talking,” the running back said about his contract situation. “That’s a good thing, and we’ll continue to talk. So that’s good news that we’re still talking. That’s about it.”

Those aren’t exactly encouraging words, but Forte said progress has been made since last year, even a few months ago.

“Last year we were worlds apart, but it’s gotten better,” said Forte, who was one of the coaches for the Madden NFL 13 Pigskin Pro-Am. “But I can’t talk about the specifics.”

What he could talk about was the neighborhood he believes he belongs in with other running backs, and the tax bracket it takes to move into that neighborhood.

The Bears gave Forte the franchise tag, and the sides have until July 16 to agree to a long-term deal. If an agreement can’t be reached, Forte will play the 2012 season under the franchise tag and make $7.7 million.

“Market value, that’s basically what I’m talking about,” Forte said when asked about his value. “There have been a lot of running backs that have been in my position that have signed, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster. There’s an area that we need to deal from, and we all know what that area is. It’s just a matter of doing it.”

If that’s the area Forte wants to live in, that means $20 million guaranteed. McCoy just signed a five-year, $45 million deal with just more than $20 million guaranteed. Foster signed a five-year, $43.5 million deal with $20.75 million guaranteed.

The question is whether Forte has the same status as those two backs. The Bears don’t think so. At least they haven’t committed to that.

“He’s a guy that has proven himself,” said teammate Lance Briggs, who also coached at the Madden event. “He’s proven that he deserves that long-term contract, that big deal. In comparison to what the other running backs are getting paid, the numbers don’t lie. His numbers say that he deserves to get paid just like the elite.”

While Briggs had Forte’s back, Forte didn’t appreciate quarterback Jay Cutler recently speaking for him.

Cutler said he “would be shocked if [Forte] doesn’t sign his tender by July 15, or whenever it is, and show up.”

“I don’t know, it depends on how we’re doing in the negotiations,” Forte said when asked if he would sign and be in camp on time. “But it kind of looks bad when other people speak for you. [Cutler] doesn’t really know what’s going to happen. He’s not in the negotiations. He’s just being optimistic. He wants me there, I want to be there. But it’s just a matter of what happens in the next couple of weeks.”

Even if Forte and the Bears reach a deal, Forte said the process has left some “scars.”

“That’s what happens when you get into the business side of sports,” he said. “There’s an easy way to get over those scars, but we’ll see. Everyone looks at it and says, ‘Oh, it’s only about money.’ It’s not only about money. It’s about you going out there and putting your heart and soul on the field, being respected for what you do, and then being rewarded for it.”

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