Poor Matt Forte.
Because of the NFL franchise tag guaranteeing Forte such a paltry salary next season, the pouty Bears running back might not have enough money to pay his team of enablers.
What happened to the epitome of hard work and humility who came to the Bears in 2008 as grounded as he was gifted? Chicago wants that guy back, not the football diva who took to Twitter on Thursday to whine about the Bears having the audacity to sign a backup running back.
How dare the Bears invest in building a more competitive roster by upgrading a key position.
The arrival of Michael Bush likely means the end of Marion Barber, the goat of the Broncos' loss whose biggest contribution as a Bear was to Tebowmania. Bush signed a four-year, $14 million contract with $7 million in guarantees, a reasonable insurance rate considering Forte missed the final four games last season with a knee injury.
Forte's knee has healed, but apparently now his feelings are hurt.
"There's only so many times a man that has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess GOOD GUYS do finish last," Forte tweeted.
The more Forte expresses himself over his ongoing contract dispute, the less he comes across as a good guy. The more yards he gains, the more perspective he loses. This is what nobody in Forte's inner circle will tell him: Complaining about the Bears signing a player that improves the team casts him as a me-first prima donna, a pro sports cliche.
"For the record, I'm not mad at the signing of another running back,'' Forte tweeted later. "But … not taking care of (your) own and undervaluing a player under his market value is another story! Just keeping it real … hate it or love it.''
I liked it better when Forte let football define his Bears tenure more than finances.
During Forte's rookie season I wrote that he could have the highest ceiling of any Bears running back since Walter Payton. I never imagined he would become so high-maintenance.
Forte needs to worry about running the football, not the football team. Signing Bush, who had 997 rushing yards for the Raiders last season, protects the Bears from Forte injuring himself again or foolishly holding out. That's not disrespectful, that's smart — especially given the hints Forte has dropped about skipping training camp unless he signs a new contract before the July 16 deadline.
What Forte's ego blocks him from seeing is how Bush potentially keeps him healthier and more productive. Bush doesn't threaten Forte's status as featured back any more than previous veteran backups Kevin Jones, Chester Taylor or Barber did.
The only thing dumber than Forte holding out — how did that strategy help Chris Johnson's career? — would be the Bears trading him. Why? Forte runs harder when running angry, if last year is any indication. Let coach Lovie Smith work it out.
Forgive me if I'm not worried about a prolonged holdout. No way Forte misses his Week 1 check worth $455,000 — 75 percent of what he made last season. Nobody should overreact if and when Forte boycotts mandatory workouts or minicamps either; he showed during last year's unorthodox offseason he doesn't need Halas Hall to report in outstanding physical shape.
To strengthen his mental outlook, perhaps Forte can talk to Texans running back Arian Foster.
Foster, the NFL's leading rusher in 2010, made a mere $525,000 last season and nobody in Houston heard a peep of self-pity. A grateful Foster cried tears of joy recently signing a five-year, $43.5 million contract with $20.75 million in guarantees. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch also signed a four-year, $32 million with $17 million in guarantees. Forte's deal belongs somewhere between those two in regard to guaranteed money. But I suspect Forte seeks more.
We don't know details of the latest negotiations, but the Tribune previously reported Forte turned down at least $14 million in guarantees before last season, seeking a five-year, $40 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. Then Forte produced like a Pro Bowl player. What's fair now for an elite runner in a league trending more than ever toward the passing game?
Both sides still can find common ground before training camp if they professionally put emotions aside and Forte's demands stay within reason. Though every day that seems like a bigger if.
Under Smith, the Bears have struck long-term, fair-market value deals with core players. Brian Urlacher. Jay Cutler. Lance Briggs. Charles Tillman. Devin Hester. Tommie Harris. Olin Kreutz.
Why not Forte?
It takes two, with both sides looking for solutions — not petty slights.