Matt Forte downplays absence from Bears' optional program

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears opened up their voluntary offseason program under new head coach John Fox on Monday without two-time Pro Bowl tailback Matt Forte, who posted on Twitter that he spent the day at a training complex in South Florida.

Forte, 29, later tried to downplay the absence, noting the workouts are voluntary. Per the NFL collective bargaining agreement, phase one of the league's offseason program (the first two weeks) is limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. Forte has visited Halas Hall on a couple occasions earlier in the offseason to visit teammates.

However, Forte's attendance in the offseason program is noteworthy because the running back is entering the final year of his contract after leading the club in rushing yards (1,038) and receptions (102). Forte is scheduled to earn a 2015 base salary of $7.050 million and count $9.2 million against Chicago's salary cap in a deal that also includes a potential $1.050 million in per-game roster bonuses and a $100,000 workout bonus.

It's unknown if the two sides have made any progress toward an extension. The Bears have not commented publicly about Forte's soon-to-be-expiring contract.

Forte became the second player in NFL history to gain at least 1,000 yards rushing and 100 receptions in a single season. He leads the league in yards from scrimmage (11,431) and is third in rushing yards (7,704) since 2008.