Yes, NFL is a business, but it’s still hard to see Matt Forte leave

SHARE Yes, NFL is a business, but it’s still hard to see Matt Forte leave


Nah. It doesn’t exist in the NFL.

And it’s certain Matt Forte knew that before the Bears essentially said: ‘‘Bye-bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on the way out.’’

The Bears’ best running back since Walter Payton wasn’t even given an offer from the front office because he was never part of the team’s plan moving forward.

At 30, a critical age of decline for most NFL running backs, Forte was considered overpaid and not worth the risk of failure that was sure to come in his brutal world.

We all get that. It’s cold out there. Just win, baby.

Still, it’s hard to be reminded that, in some businesses, humans are little more than motorized meat, valued only for their physical skills at any given moment, with nary a thought given to sacrifice, good citizenship and locker-room value.

You could have Goliath or Paul Bunyan on your team, and they’d get cut the second they couldn’t make it around the corner or pancake linebackers.

So it goes.

Nor is it like Forte, whom the Bears drafted in the second round in 2008 out of Tulane, ever wasn’t productive or dependable.

The tall, lean runner — you had to see him in the locker room to notice his muscular, receiver-like build — missed only eight of 128 games in his eight seasons with the Bears. That averages out to one missed game per season.

That’s incredible for a workhorse running back in the NFL. Indeed, 2015 first-round pick Kevin White missed twice that many games in one season.

And production? Forte never had fewer than 898 rushing yards in a season and exceeded 1,000 five times. His yards-from-scrimmage totals were stunning — anywhere from 1,287 to 1,933 yards per season — and he caught 102 passes in 2014 to set an NFL record for running backs.

As former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel said on the radio Friday, there are four things great running backs must be able to do: run, catch, block and make something out of nothing.

‘‘A lot of backs can do one or two of those things,’’ Gabriel said. ‘‘Forte can do all of them.’’

So the Bears are losing a skilled, if aging, rarity. And not only did Forte have the elusiveness to slip ahead for a yard or two more than the play seemed to allow, but he was a good fellow, a good teammate.

Gabriel noticed it when Forte was still in college, preparing for the draft.

‘‘His interview was outstanding,’’ Gabriel said. ‘‘Just small talk, out in the hall. He was a very personable guy, very likable.’’

The Bears move on, and Forte moves out. It’s bittersweet, for sure — with ‘‘bitter’’ reigning just now.

On Instagram, Forte wrote: ‘‘Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end. I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history. My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports.’’

Of course, we regret that, too. But Forte will play somewhere next season, and only time will tell whether the Bears made a bad mistake or a necessary business decision.

The job as starting running back now goes to second-year man Jeremy Langford, whose main selling point might be that he is a slightly smaller version of Forte (possibly without the great hands) but is only 24.

Age is what it’s all about for running backs. Use ’em up, spit ’em out. There’s always a fresh one coming in the next draft. And only the best of the best — the Paytons, the Emmitt Smiths, the Tony Dorsetts — do anything after their late 20s.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott are the best backs coming out this year, seemingly far ahead of the field. But there are sleepers out there.

At his introductory news conference a year ago, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked whether he was responsible for the 53-man roster.

‘‘To answer your question, yes,’’ he said.

Here you go, GM. Replace Matt Forte. You’re on the clock.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


The Latest
The 103-year-old Catholic nun has a lot to share.
“I am so happy to hear of the news of BG’s return home. I know I can speak for the entire Sky organization when I saw words can’t express the happiness that we feel to finally have her coming home,” coach/GM James Wade said.
In each case, a black Kia SUV pulled up and a gunman gun out and demanded victims’ property.
Javonni Jenkins, 27, and Curtis Hartman, 79, were found Wednesday morning in their apartment. The 2-year-old did not appear to be injured but was taken to a hospital to be checked.
The singer revealed the diagnosis of the incurable neurological disorder in an emotional Instagram video Thursday adding that the symptoms are what have been causing her to have severe muscle spasms in the past.