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No extension, no regrets for Bears’ Matt Forte

Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews (52) tries tackle Chicago Bears' Matt Forte (22) during first half an NFL football game

Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews (52) tries to tackle Chicago Bears' Matt Forte (22) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

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Updated: November 9, 2011 12:50PM

The disappointment is palpable.

Bears running back Matt Forte will make $600,000, the league minimum for a veteran with his experience, this season.

The frustration is understandable.

Forte hasn’t missed an NFL game, and he clearly has outperformed his initial four-year, $3.7 million contract.

But Forte isn’t going to change his approach with the regular-season opener coming up Sunday at Soldier Field.

“No regrets,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I handled it like I always do. I’m a professional. This is the National Football League, and that’s what I was going to do. Be professional about it, which is come to camp, work hard every day, play in the preseason and get ready for the season. That’s what I’ve done.”

Ultimately, despite both sides wanting to work out an extension, the deal was like a hot potato. Working off his rookie deal, Forte is the one holding the potato, with millions lost if he gets injured or has a disappointing season. If the Bears convince Forte to sign a contract, then the team bears the burden and assumes many of the risks.

That can’t be overlooked at the position, and that’s why running backs rarely land lucrative, long-term contracts.

Forte wouldn’t get into specifics, but the Bears’ offer was between $13 million and $14 million in guarantees. According to a league source, the franchise tag for running backs is projected to be $9.5 million in 2012 if the salary cap is $120 million.

So the Bears can lock up Forte through 2012 by spending about $10.1 million.

“Coming into the league, you feel like this is supposed to be production-based, and when you produce in the offense, you expect the team or the organization to actually notice that compared to other guys,” Forte said. “We just couldn’t meet in the middle.”

Forte downplayed the possibility of injury, but he did admit some concern.

“I’m playing this year just like I play every year,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I’m going into the season with no regrets about what I’ve done, no worries about injuries. But I am human. I am going to be thinking about the contract situation and all that stuff. I already have been. I just have to start playing football.”

General manager Jerry Angelo told the Bears’ website that the team is not closing the door on extension talks with Forte, which is the way the running back is proceeding.

“He’s the one we talk to, so the door’s always open on my end,” Forte said.

Angelo expressed optimism that a deal could get completed during the preseason, but Forte doesn’t harbor any resentment toward Angelo.

“I don’t think he lied; we tried to get a deal done,” Forte said. “It was just, maybe they have a different view of the type of player I am than the type of player that they think I am.”

Coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday that Forte hasn’t changed since the Bears drafted him in the second round of the 2008 draft.

“He is a professional,” Smith said. “That’s how he’s been since Day 1 when he walked into the building. But if there’s something going on on the outside, it’s on the outside.

“He hasn’t brought it in at all.”

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