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Matt Forte: Contract talks with Bears getting better

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Updated: June 22, 2012 4:16PM

Matt Forte wasn’t exactly in his comfort zone.

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

Message sent to the Chicago Bears, loud and clear. Now Forte is hoping that someone within his organization starts hearing it.

What the running back would say about contract situation is, “We’ve been talking. 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.’’

Not exactly encouraging, but also progress made since last year or even a few months ago, as far as Forte was concerned.

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

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

The Bears applied the franchise tag on Forte and now have until July 16 to sign him to a long-term deal. If that agreement can’t be reached, Forte plays the 2012 season under the franchise tag, making $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, and 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 visit, that means $20 million guaranteed. McCoy just signed a five year, $45 million deal with just over $20 million guaranteed, while Foster was five years, $43.5 million with $20.75 million guaranteed.

The question becomes is Forte in 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,’’ teammate Lance Briggs, who was also coaching in the game, said of Forte. “He’s proven that he deserves that long-term contract, that big deal. In comparison to what the other running backs are getting paid, Matt Forte, the numbers don’t lie. His numbers say that he deserves to get paid just like the elite.’’

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

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

Forte’s message to his quarterback? Stay out of Matt Forte’s business.

“I don’t know, it depends on how we’re doing in the negotiations, but it kind of looks bad when other people speak for you,’’ Forte responded, when asked if he would sign and be in camp on time. “[Cutler] doesn’t really know what’s going to happen, so, he’s not in the negotiations, so, 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 can get a deal worked out, the running back admitted that the process has left some scars.

“There are scars,’’ Forte added. “That’s what happens when you get into the business side of sports. 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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