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Forte's Longevity a Factor in Ongoing Contract Talks

"Matt?  Matt?  Run to daylight but don't go down the tunnel of light.  Matt?"
"Matt? Matt? Run to daylight but don't go down the tunnel of light. Matt?"

As if to showcase just how hard the stock of the running back position has fallen in the NFL, the Tribune reports that the Bears have "concerns" about Forte's knees. Is it a genuine issue for a player at his position aged just 26, or are the team merely playing hardball?

More news and thoughts after the jump.

David Haugh says that a source has claimed the reason the Bears haven't been able to agree to a multiyear contract with their lead back is due to concern over how long his knees will hold up, an issue that "drew the attention of several teams" before he was drafted out of Tulane in the 2008 draft.

From the article:

According to the source, given Forte's past the Bears cannot rule out arthritis setting in and becoming a chronic problem for the fifth-year running back with 1,237 career NFL touches who turns 27 in December. In the NFL, data show running backs start declining after age 28.

"What past?" you might ask. After all, his first missed game since being a starter from day 1 in the NFL was in week 13 in his fourth season, when he was taken off after being injured in a loss to the Chiefs (ugh). Well, as it turns out:

Forte has history with both knees. He tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in November 2006 at Tulane and that injury, combined with 833 carries in college primarily on artificial surfaces, caused a handful of teams to note worries over the length of his NFL career. He suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the same knee in 2009, his second year, and had postseason arthroscopic surgery.

I have to admit that I wasn't aware of this when he was drafted, and this is the first time I've seen his PCL tear in college mentioned.

And then there's the fact that, as Haugh put it:

The Bears all but announced this week they now think they are a passing team ... nothing about coordinator Mike Tice's newly installed Broncos-styled offense Cutler and Marshall described made anybody conclude it needs a marquee running back. It functioned at a high level in '08 with a running back committee.

If this is the case, and given the history of workhorse lead backs who have shone early in their careers only to decline at a precipitous rate when the carries take their toll (the likes of Shaun Alexander, Marshall Faulk, Clinton Portis and Deuce McAllister all had their final 1,000 yard rushing seasons aged no older than 28, and none were able to start a full 16-game season after that), does it alter your views on whether the Bears should "pay da man"?

Tip o' the hat to Silence_Dogood for the fanshot.