Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, whose public desire for a new contract was one of the challenges facing general manager Jerry Angelo all season, is now optimistic he can get a long-term deal done, although he didn't say it was because Angelo was fired.
Forte was at the United Center on Tuesday night, watching another young Chicago star who just signed a five-year, $94.8 million extension, lead the Chicago Bulls to a thrilling come-from-behind victory. Hours before Derrick Rose's MVP-caliber performance, Forte's team made headlines by firing Angelo and parting ways with offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.
"I'm pretty optimistic even if nothing did happen," Forte told Comcast SportsNet. "It's a long offseason, and I was hopeful that we'd get a long-term deal done in the offseason. I think with the offseason being here we can get something done."
Forte sounded less optimistic on Monday, saying he had "no idea" about the prospects of signing a new deal.
"Nobody is talking right now, so we'll see," he said Monday.
ESPNChicago.com reported the Bears' final offer to Forte contained between $13-$14 million in guarantees. Angelo said it showed the Bears made a genuine effort to sign Forte.
"Of course he is going to say that," Forte said Monday. "The deal didn't get done, basically. He can say all he wants to say about effort and all that stuff ... it didn't get done. We'll see what happens. Now, my agent even told me the longer we wait the harder it's going to be to do."
Will a new GM mean a new deal will be in the works?
Bears CEO Ted Phillips said during Tuesday's press conference announcing the moves that the organization would like Forte to be in the fold "long term," although he also said putting the franchise tag on Forte is an option.
"The Bears as an organization have a lot of decisions to make right now," Forte said. "I guess we're getting new players in and coaches and managers.
"I'm looking forward to hopefully being back with the team and hopefully sign a long-term deal."
Forte said he was surprised the organization parted ways with Martz, although some of the criticism directed at Martz centered around him not running the ball more with Forte.
"I didn't see that coming," Forte said. "We all liked Coach Martz. He's a great coach and the offense improved when he got here.
"I just think like they said they had philosophical differences. Maybe I think some of the guys wanted him to run the ball a little more or whatever, but he's going his separate way and we're going our way."
As far as coach Lovie Smith surviving the front-office shakeup, Forte echoed the sentiments of Brian Urlacher, who said on ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy Show" on Tuesday that he didn't even consider the coach being fired.
"Everybody loves Coach Lovie," Forte said. "He protects us as players and he truly cares about us, so we love Coach Lovie."
Forte, who missed the last four games with a knee injury, is hoping to be healthy enough to play in his first Pro Bowl on Jan. 29. Urlacher understands the desire, but he wants his teammate to be healthy as he negotiates a new deal.
"It's his first one," Urlacher said. "You want to play. It's a big deal, you get voted in.
"I'd like to see him not play, because I care about his career as a teammate, but at the same time, I see where he's coming from."