CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs past Antwan Barnes #98 of the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Chargers 31-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Matt Forte was cleared to play in the Pro Bowl this week, and quite frankly, I'm surprised at the semi-outcry against him choosing to do so. I don't think the Pro Bowl is any sort of precursor to getting himself the biggest deal possible, or any kind of real indicator as to his health, but the arguing that he shouldn't play out of fear of injury, pursuit of contract, et cetera... just doesn't make sense to me.
I don't buy into the argument that because he didn't play in the last four games of the regular season, he's obligated to not play in the Pro Bowl. He wasn't healthy enough to play in the games, so now that he's healthy... he shouldn't play anyway, in the last game of the season that he's eligible for?
So then he shouldn't play because he might suffer an injury that might hurt his chances at getting a bigger contract, or that might convince the Bears to not give him a fair offer? It's football - any player can suffer an injury on any play, and every player assumes this risk any time they step on the football field. Just ask Martin Gramatica (or, for a recent baseball parallel, Kendry Morales). We'd be fooling ourselves to think the Pro Bowl matters in any sort of grand scheme of things - Forte would, at most, get a third of the carries he'd get in a normal game, and after that, his best chance as getting injured would be an errant practice kick to the knee or a lineman tripping over his leg.
Then it has to be because it's a meaningless game with no consequence? It isn't so much a game as it is a celebration of players' personal accomplishments on the field, and a game (or scrimmage) happens to take place. Forte has his right as much as anybody to take part in it as the voters have said he should. It's his first Pro Bowl, and the first Bears' offensive draft pick going to the Pro Bowl in quite some time, why shouldn't he take part in the festivities? And a few carries in a game with no consequence (and historically, no defense) isn't going to bump up any offers he gets or reduce them.
If Forte wants to play in the Pro Bowl, by all means, please do.