|National Football League|
Bears' Briggs understands Forte's position
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By ANDREW SELIGMAN
Briggs said Forte has "put his life and his mind and body on the field for all of us" and is not letting anyone down by missing organized team activities. He also said Wednesday the Bears need to lock in Brian Urlacher to an extension.
The more immediate issue, however, is Forte.
He hasn't signed his $7.74 million franchise tender and has until July 16 to agree to a multiyear deal.
Forte came into last season seeking an extension, but negotiations went nowhere.
He wound up finishing with 1,487 yards from scrimmage and 997 rushing while making the Pro Bowl for the first time, but his season ended when he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in a loss to Kansas City on Dec. 4. By then, the Bears had lost Jay Cutler to a broken thumb and were in the middle of a freefall that left them out of the playoffs at 8-8, costing general manager Jerry Angelo his job.
Phil Emery replaced him. The Bears put the franchise-player tag on Forte, and the standoff continues.
"It's rough," Briggs said. "In this league you work hard and you want that to be recognized with a long-term deal. You know how this business is. It's rough. It can be brutal."
Briggs has been through it - several times.
The Pro Bowl linebacker vowed never to play another down for the Bears after they slapped the franchise tag on him for the 2007 season. Instead, he wound up accepting a one-year, $7.2 million contract and agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal in March 2008.
He found himself back in a familiar spot last season when, like Forte, he pushed for a new deal - this time with three years left on his contract. He even asked the Bears to trade him if they couldn't reach an agreement, but Angelo wasn't open to the idea.
A new deal finally came in the spring, when Briggs and the Bears agreed to a one-year extension through the 2014 season that basically guarantees about $8 million over the next two years.
Now, Forte's in a staredown. And Urlacher's contract expires after this season.
"This whole city and the organization and the players here - we all better hope that that happens because he means a whole lot to our success," Briggs said when asked about an extension for Urlacher. "He's pivotal to our success."
And the Bears certainly are aiming high.
Expectations are soaring thanks to a flurry of moves by Emery, most notably the acquisition of Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall from Miami. That gave Cutler the go-to target he has lacked since he arrived from Denver while reuniting him with one of his favorite targets from the Broncos.
But some big questions remain on the offensive and defensive lines. Age could also be an issue on defense, with Briggs, Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman all in their 30s.
Even so, Briggs said, "On paper, we have the most talented team that I've played with on the Bears. Now, how that translates to the field this season is yet to be seen."
For now, the offense seems to be attracting more attention.
"We've got a lot of new pieces to the offense, so of course they always get all the flash and love," defensive tackle Henry Melton said. "The defense just goes out there and does what it does: Monsters of the Midway."
The Bears believe they could be explosive on offense.
They have a new coordinator, with Mike Tice getting promoted from offensive line coach to replace Mike Martz, and a renewed outlook. With Cutler firing to Marshall, they envision big things, as long as the blockers hold their ground.
Having Forte in the fold wouldn't hurt, either.
"A lot of guys, they want that long-term security," Briggs said. "They want to know the team wants you for a long period of time."
Updated June 6, 2012