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Forte: Bears should ‘do what’s fair’

Starter Matt Forte most productive but third-best-paid among Bears running backs said he is relieved he doesn’t have any major

Starter Matt Forte, the most productive but third-best-paid among Bears running backs, said he is relieved he doesn’t have any major health issues as he heads into the offseason. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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In terms of base salary, backups Chester Taylor and Garrett Wolfe earned more than starter Matt Forte last season, and Taylor is scheduled to make more than Forte again in 2011.

2010 2011

Chester Taylor $955,000 $1.275 million

Garrett Wolfe $550,000 Free agent

Matt Forte $470,000 $550,000

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Updated: May 26, 2011 6:15AM

DALLAS — Bears starting running back Matt Forte didn’t pout or resist last offseason when the club signed veteran Chester Taylor on the first day of free agency.

But after he maintained his standing atop the team’s depth chart with a strong 2010 season, Forte wants the Bears to rectify the disparity in their salaries.

‘‘I appreciate Chester, and we have a good rotation going on,’’ Forte told the Sun-Times on Thursday. ‘‘But I just hope the Bears’ management and coach Lovie [Smith] get together and do what’s fair. I’m just hoping they do the right thing, but there’s really nothing I can do about it.’’

Despite disappointing numbers — Taylor averaged 2.4 yards per carry — the former Minnesota Viking provided much-needed experience behind Forte and helped solve the Bears’ short-yardage woes. After being dogged by injuries in 2009 and finishing just below 1,000 rushing yards, Forte rebounded in 2010 by averaging 4.5 yards per run, scoring nine touchdowns and finishing 10th in the NFL with 1,616 yards from scrimmage.

But Taylor collected $7 million (including bonuses) last season, and third-stringer Garrett Wolfe made $550,000.

Forte’s base salary was $470,000.

Wolfe is a free agent, and Taylor is slated to make $1.275 million in 2011 — $725,000 more than Forte.

Forte said his agent, Adisa Bakari, has had preliminary talks with the Bears. But the club may not be inclined to hand out any extensions this offseason.

There is, of course, the uncertainty of the collective-bargaining agreement. But beyond that, the Bears have other key players who could hit the open market, including defensive tackle Anthony Adams. While the Bears have been one of the more proactive teams in retaining players, especially draft picks, Forte presents a unique dilemma.

He’s a running back, after all. It’s the one position teams typically don’t allocate lucrative contracts to because of potential injuries and potential replacements. Unlike quarterbacks and defensive and offensive tackles, for instance, productive running backs often can be found on the street or in the later rounds. The Houston Texans’ Arian Foster, the 2010 rushing champion, was undrafted.

On the other hand, Forte reinforced his standing as one of the league’s most versatile running backs and a key to the Bears’ offense. The Bears were 6-1, including the postseason, when Forte topped 80 rushing yards, and they averaged 30.6 points when he topped 100 rushing yards.

‘‘You get paid on production, and if you look at the past three years, there’s a lot of production,’’ Forte said. ‘‘They always talk about sophomore slump, but I got 1,400 [combined yards], and I had a knee injury and a hamstring [injury].’’

While he suggested there isn’t much he can do, Forte has one big move — not showing up at Halas Hall during the offseason.

The Bears pride themselves on the high attendance rate of players during voluntary workouts, as well as mandatory minicamp. But Forte could opt to skip all of it, which could slow the team’s effort to advance the offense of which he’s such an important part.

Forte is stinging from the loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. On Thursday, he spent time at the Super Bowl Media Center in Dallas.

‘‘It’s a real, real sour feeling to be that close,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s tough because you never know the next time you’re going to get that next opportunity to play to go to the Super Bowl, and you’ll never have that same team. But we have a really good defense, and we’ve got some improving to do on offense, but we continued to get better and better.’’

At least he’s got his health.

‘‘I’m just glad I don’t have to have any offseason surgery or anything,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I’m just blessed not to have a serious injury, and I look forward to being healthy next year.’’

Forte said he enjoys working out so much that he’ll only take a week off. Then he returns to the gym, and he plans to spend a significant amount of time at Bommarito Performance Systems in Florida.

His goal?

‘‘I got faster last year, and I can work to get even get faster,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t do anything but continue to get better.’’

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