At the beginning of our Memorial Day weekend David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune wrote a story stating the Chicago Bears may be worried that Matt Forte’s knees will not hold up and that is why they haven’t signed the running back to a long-term, multi-year contract extension. The story ignited an internet firestorm on sports websites. On Saturday night over at CBSSports.com their NFL Blogger, Josh Katzowitz, immediately assumed Haugh’s source was a member of the Bears’ organization. On Sunday night, the same website’s National NFL Insider, Mike Freeman, had a more sinister interpretation of Haugh’s story claiming that the Bears had leaked the information and had “repaid Forte’s loyalty with a nice piece of nastiness.”
Wow. In the universe of the Chicago Bears this Memorial Day weekend turned from enjoying burgers and brats to wondering if the team was engaged in cloak and dagger intrigue.
I’m not buying the cloak and dagger.
According to Haugh, it was a “source” who made the “suggestion” to the newspaper. A “source” could be anyone from the team’s GM to the guy who supplies tacking dummies. It’s unlikely the source was anyone on the team because Haugh would have referred to the person as a “team source.” Additionally, Haugh goes on to write that the Bears don’t comment on negotiations. Given that, if Haugh’s source was a member of the organization then the Tribune scribe wittingly participated in a scheme by the Bears to negotiate through the media on behalf of General Manager Phil Emery. I don’t think it’s fair to assume or imply Haugh’s ethics are questionable.
None of it adds up. Remember that under Emery the Bears drafted a 3rd round pick, safety Brandon Hardin, who missed the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury; a 2nd rounder, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey who broke a bone in his hand; and, a 1st round defensive end, Shea McClellin, who reportedly had concussions, although he has denied those reports, but did miss games throughout his college career due to knee and back injuries. These new guys are not exactly sure-things for the all-healthy NFL Team. Emery also committed $14 million, with $7 million guaranteed, to Forte’s back-up, Michael Bush. The former Oakland Raider will be 28 years old when the 2012 season begins. His bruising running style, overall mileage and history of injuries in college don’t inspire thoughts that he’ll surpass Walter Payton’s NFL record of 170 consecutive starts for a running back.
That’s close to $20 million in guaranteed money to players who I can argue are as likely to break down as Matt Forte. Certainly, the 27 year old Forte is an injury risk. He has mileage. He’s a running back. But, remember Forte played in 60 of 64 career games since entering the NFL including all 16 regular season games for three straight seasons until missing the last four regular season games last year. Forte did play in the Pro Bowl last year lending credence to his agent’s claim that he would have suited up for the playoffs had the team played in the post-season. Forte even added to the Memorial Day weekend ruckus by tweeting video of his workout and dismissing any concerns about his knees.
So, I don’t think Haugh’s source is a member of the Bears organization and I don’t believe the source is correct.
In my mind, the Bears are standing their ground against Forte for one simple reason: from a financial perspective it makes sense to franchise Forte for the next two seasons and then part ways with him when he is 28 years old, which in NFL running back years is about the time most of us are talking to our physicians about our high blood pressure, shortness of breath and the side effects of Viagra.
Dan Pompeii of the Tribune nicely lays out the particulars of the leverage the Bears enjoy. He collected input from multiple sources and while he doesn’t name any of the sources he makes makes it clear that no one is a tackling dummy salesman.
Haugh may want to go on the record and correct the web writers who have assumed that he was meeting with a team official in a dark office at Halas Hall. Or CBS should consider replacing their web writers with tackling dummies.