Part of ESPN The Magazine's NFL preview is a narrative of how Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte kept his head together during the year-long process that ended with his new four-year contract last month. Seth Wickersham offered insight into the ups and downs Forte faced, including at least one anecdote I wasn't previously aware of.
Just before the start of the 2011 season, former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo made an unusual request: A direct meeting with Forte, who to this point had left negotiations to his agent. Forte agreed because he thought it would bring good karma to the discussions.
We'll let Wickersham take it from there:
Almost none did, beginning with the first exchange between Forte and Angelo. "Why aren't you trying to pay me as an elite back?" Forte asked. The GM's response: "You haven't even made it to a Pro Bowl." As the discussion dissolved into the minutiae of Forte's popularity -- the Pro Bowl is partially voted on by fans, Bakari pointed out -- the meeting ended, and Forte entered the season with a very clear parting message from management: You are not as good as you think."
How could he argue otherwise? This was about more than Forte. It is the existential dilemma every football player faces: trying to convince teams that both demand and devalue your performance that you're worth more. And to do it without alienating everyone -- fans, teammates, even family -- in the process. Forte had a theory about what might work. Over the next 11 months, it did. Barely.
If nothing else, the anecdote helps us understand the mindset Forte took through the entire 2011 season. The full story is here.