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Angelo: ‘Nothing new’ in Forte contract talks

Updated: January 23, 2012 2:55AM

One reason the Bears and running back Matt Forte were unable to find the ‘‘middle ground’’ in contract negotiations is that both sides had such a long way to get there.

Just before the regular season, the Bears’ best offer to Forte was believed to be worth about $6 million per year, with $13 to $14 million guaranteed.

It’s unclear how much Forte wanted, but Bears general manager Jerry Angelo noted in several instances during the preseason that Forte was not an unrestricted free agent.

In the NFL, a deal that averages about $6 million a season gets a running back closer to good than great. Consider that Steven Jackson and DeAngelo Williams get an average of $8.6 million on their latest deals, while Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson average over $13 and $14 million, respectively.

Through five games, Forte leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 785, and he’s also sixth in rushing yards (440) and seventh in total catches (30).

According to ESPN, he’s accounted for a league-high 51.5 percent of his team’s total offensive yardage. The next closest player? Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew, at 40.1 percent.

Angelo said there’s ‘‘nothing new’’ toward a deal, and also said he didn’t think Forte’s outstanding performance would make it more difficult for the Bears to sign him. But Forte’s agent, Adisa Bakari, told the Sun-Times last week that the process dragging on will only complicate matters.

‘‘We’ve stated, from the very beginning, the longer we wait, the more difficult and complicated it becomes,’’ Bakari said.

Peppers out?

Julius Peppers, who suffered a sprained right knee against the Lions, still was sore Wednesday and might not play against the Vikings on Sunday night.

The Bears did not practice on Wednesday after playing Monday night. But if they would have had practice, Peppers would not have been available.

‘‘I don’t know exactly when he’ll be able to go, but hopefully by Friday at least, he’ll be able to do some things and [play] this weekend,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.

The Bears’ defensive line already will be shorthanded against the Vikings. Starting tackle Matt Toeaina suffered a sprained knee against the Lions and will miss two weeks, sources told the Sun-Times.

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