Forte won't rule out signing the franchise tag, wants to be in camp


Forte won't rule out signing the franchise tag, wants to be in camp

Matt Forte was not in uniform for OTAs with the Bears. He was not there for the three-day minicamp last week. And he is still realistically a longshot to be in Bourbonnais when the Bears begin actual practices on July 26.

But Forte, appearing at the EA Sports Madden 2013 Pigskin Pro-Am in Chicago on Friday, did not rule out signing the 7.74-million franchise tag prior to the start of the season and told Comcast SportsNets Pat Boyle that the contract gap between the Bears and himself has narrowed.

I cant really speculate about signing the tag right now, Forte said, adding that as far as training camp itself, I want to be there, obviously. Its a matter of what happens in these next couple weeks leading up to July 16.

July 16 is the NFL deadline for a long-term contract. After that, Fortes only option is the guaranteed tag pay rate.

For complete coverage of Pats conversations with Forte and linebacker Lance Briggs, tune into Chicago Tribune Live and SportsNet Central Friday on Comcast SportsNet.

Forte reiterated that he is not seeking to become the NFLs highest-paid running back.

I just want to get market value, Forte said, citing the deals LeSean McCoy signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arian Foster did with the Houston Texans, both of which guaranteed the players slightly more than 20 million over five and four years, respectively.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been among those who cannot see a 2012 season or even training camp without Forte, but the running back would prefer to be his own spokesman.

I dont know. It depends on how negotiations go, Forte said. Thats why it looks bad when other people speak for you...

Forte avoided discussing specifics beyond saying that talks are worlds apart from last year, a clear indication that the gap between the sides has narrowed from the impasse of the past year.

Forte said that he talks frequently with teammate Lance Briggs, who was in a similar franchise-tag situation in 2007 and eventually reached a long-term deal.

Pay the man! Briggs declared, expressing unqualified support for Forte and his position. "Hes done what hes had to and everybody on the team knows it.

Forte has generally maintained an outward air of calm through the stalemate times and is not getting any more emotional about any sense of progress that may be occurring.

I stay even-keeled about it. I dont get too high or too low about it, Forte said. If it happens, then thank God that its going to happen.

Everybody knows I want to be with the Chicago Bears and play for them, Forte said, at the same time asking for understanding. If it comes to the point where Im not going to be and have to make a business decision for myself, everybody should understand that.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut


Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers


Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.