Final stretch could be end for Forte with Bears
It could be about football. It could be about parenting, too.
''We just talk about how our kids are in that `no' stage and how to get them out of saying `no,' so you've got to give them two options,'' said Carey, who has a 2-year-old son and another boy due in two weeks. ''So they kind of feel like they're in charge. It could just be the smallest things like that.''
The locker room sure would feel like a different place for him if Forte wasn't around, and there is a distinct possibility Forte might not be after this season.
The Bears and Forte have a big decision looming with three games remaining and a contract that's set to expire. A more immediate issue is getting back to winning after back-to-back losses at home to San Francisco and Washington, and finishing the season on a strong note.
Chicago (5-8) visits Minnesota this week and then Tampa Bay before finishing at home against Detroit on Jan. 3. It's unclear if that will be the final game in a Bears uniform for Forte.
''I think guys now more than before have really taken notice to his approach to the game, his approach to taking care of himself on and off the field,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''If you are a young guy in the locker room, Matt Forte is a guy you want to watch and try to emulate.''
If Forte's time with the Bears is ending, he will go down as one of the most successful running backs in franchise history. But at 30 and in his eighth season since Chicago drafted him in the second round in 2008, he is at a point where ball carriers tend to decline - even if he has not necessarily shown it.
Forte has said he would like to play at least 10 and maybe even 12 or 13 seasons.
''I think I'll assess that after 10, but my goal is kind of like 10 or 12 years,'' he said.
One thing working in Forte's favor is his conditioning. His intense offseason regimen, which includes uphill wind sprints, has been well-documented, and he has mostly been durable during his career. Although he missed three games last month because of a knee injury, he played in all 16 in five of his first seven seasons.
Something else working in Forte's favor: attitude.
While other veterans might feel threatened by emerging young players such as rookie Jeremy Langford and Carey, Forte has embraced a mentorship role. Langford worked out with him last summer. Carey is constantly getting tips from him.
''That shows a lot about Matt,'' Carey said. ''It's not necessarily about football. It's about growing into the man you're going to be.''
Not all veterans take that approach.
''Most guys, when you're where he's at, you could make a scene if you wanted to, but that's just not him,'' offensive coordinator Adam Gase said.
A year ago, Forte carried 266 times for 1,038 yards. Jay Cutler was second on the team with 39 rushes.
Forte still has a comfortable lead over Langford in yards rushing at 721 to 394. But when it comes to carries, the gap between first and second is nowhere near as wide as it was a year ago.
Forte has 182 attempts in 10 games, while Langford has 113 in 13 outings. And against Washington last week, Langford actually carried more of the load.
Langford had 11 carries to Forte's 10, but was outgained 37 yards to 45 by the veteran. Langford also had 27 yards on three receptions compared to one 8-yard catch for Forte.
''He's been great as far as helping Langford and helping Ka'Deem,'' Gase said. ''He's really helped those guys get better, and when he's been out of the game he's been the biggest cheerleader on the sideline for those guys. And he's taught those guys a lot. I think for me I feel lucky to be around a guy who has an elite level at all three phases of a running back. I've never been around that in my career. I know it hasn't been that long. But he's one of probably the best who's been able to do that in this game.''
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