Bears running back Matt Forte missed his ninth consecutive organized team activity Wednesday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 8, 2012 7:01PM
Bears running back Matt Forte, still miffed that he hasn’t signed a long-term contract, missed his ninth consecutive organized team activity Wednesday at Halas Hall. But it’s not a big deal yet. Brian Urlacher wasn’t there, either. Neither were Devin Hester and Charles Tillman — and they’re healthy and under contract.
And besides, the OTAs technically are voluntary. The three-day minicamp next week is mandatory. Forte, who has yet to sign the one-year offer of $7.7 million for 2012 as the Bears’ ‘‘franchise’’ player, isn’t expected to attend that, either. It’s not until training camp that teammate Lance Briggs starts to get concerned. And even then, Briggs isn’t losing sleep over the possibility of Forte missing the season in a contract dispute.
‘‘I’m not worried about it,’’ said Briggs, who missed offseason workouts in 2007 when the Bears put the franchise tag on him in a similar dispute. ‘‘To me, it’s not an issue. I know the type of player Matt Forte is. You know the type of player Matt Forte is. I guarantee you Matt Forte is working out now.’’
The Bears still seem to be working on rudimentary issues in the OTAs, more important to newcomers than veterans. But, at some point, it would behoove Forte to return if he plans to play in 2012.
‘‘I’m less concerned about next week than I am about August and September,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘You’ve got to remember, there were about three offseasons that I didn’t come in at all. Those three seasons I didn’t come in, I was still productive. I helped the team win. Do I think him not being here next week is going to be a make-or-break for our season? Not at all.’’
The Bears-Forte impasse has turned into a one-sided game of chicken. As good as Forte is, the Bears — regrettably but resolutely — are ready to play the 2012 season without him if it comes to that. He’s every bit as good but not quite as valuable as he thinks he is. After Forte suffered a knee injury, Marion Barber rushed for 108 yards against the Broncos. When Barber went out, Kahlil Bell rushed for 121 yards against the Packers.
The only question is how far Forte is willing to go to express his displeasure. With rare exceptions (Mike Singletary in 1985, Steve McMichael in 1990), few Bears holdout stories that extend into the preseason and beyond end well — from veterans Al Harris and Todd Bell in 1985 and Mike Richardson in 1987 to rookies Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis, Cade McNown and David Terrell.
Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker, seems like a good model for Forte. Briggs never hides his displeasure, misses what he can afford to miss but is always there when it really matters.
‘‘It’s rough,’’ Briggs said when asked what Forte is going through. ‘‘In this league, you work hard and you want that to be recognized with a long-term deal. You know how this business is. It can be brutal.’’
His advice for Forte: ‘‘Do what you believe because no one knows you like you,’’ he said. ‘‘And no one’s going to take care of you like you.’’
In the end, Briggs always gave a supreme effort on the field whenever he felt disrespected by the Bears. And he’s sure Forte will do the same.
‘‘Matt is a hell of a football player,’’ he said, ‘‘and I think that if Matt is out on the field, Matt’s going to be one of the best backs in the league, regardless of what’s going on in the business side. He’s on that field, he’s helping us win.
‘‘Whenever Matt decides it’s time for him to come in, he’ll be ready to play. We’ll be ready for him to come in and do what he does. I can’t wait to have him on the field.’’