As matters stand now, the Bears will be without running backs Matt Forte and Khalil Bell when their voluntary offseason program begins next Monday. Its strictly business; neither has a signed contract or tender offer in place and theyre simply not permitted to be at Halas Hall for the sessions until they sign.
But Fortes unhappiness at not having a contract concluded will not make him a holdout when the season starts, according to one prominent teammate.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher said Tuesday that Forte will be there when he needs to be and that includes training camp.
Newly signed backup running back Michael Bushll have a lot of reps if Matts not there, Urlacher said, laughing, prior to his receiving the Bears Ed Block Courage Award for 2011. Bush willl get to know the offense pretty well.
Matt takes care of himself, knows the offense, is a smart guy, hes always in shape. Hell be at training camp when he needs to be. Either way whether hes under contract or hes franchised hell be there. Im glad weve got him back.
Fortes head coach did not sound any alarms, either, regarding Fortes eventual attendance or any possible effects from missing offseason work time.
Last season we didnt have an offseason, Lovie Smith said, alluding to the lockout that extended until just before training camp, and we had a pretty good year.