Scouting the Bears
10:03 PM CDT, March 22, 2012
NFL players don't trust the guys in the suits, tucked away in the big offices, removed from the locker room. There is no loyalty (or honesty) here when it comes to the relationship between players and management.
Produce on Sundays or call the moving company.
However, players want to be rewarded. And in the NFL, that means cash — big cash. You act like a pro, do your job and help a team win? Then the team should take care of you. That means new contracts, extensions and more money.
This is the player's mentality, the thinking inside the walls of those locker rooms spread across the league.
And everyone is watching when it is time for a teammate to get paid.
The situation with Matt Forte, who has carried the Bears offense for multiple seasons, is no different.
From Forte's perspective, it is his time, his opportunity to see the long-term contract, the guaranteed money and the rewards every player wants. He desires a bigger and better deal than the franchise tag the team has placed on him this offseason.
Forte wants that "security." I get it.
On Thursday, general manager Phil Emery signed free agent running back Michael Bush in a football decision to improve the depth of this team and solidify the position. It's a heady pickup.
But the only thing Forte and the rest of this Bears locker room will see first is the four-year, $14 million dollar contract that comes with $7 million guaranteed.
There will be whispers and questions from players. If Emery and the front office won't pay Forte, what happens when it is their time to negotiate? Will they see a team that takes care of its own and rewards past production?
The attitude trickles down to the young talent on the roster. Henry Melton had seven sacks in 2011 and is entering the final year of his contract. Another year of solid play and it will be his turn to approach the front office for a new deal.
Will there be some doubt from Melton and other young players if Forte doesn't see new money? Possibly, because all players think alike when it comes to contracts and the business side of the NFL.
This could create more than the natural divide between player and front office, an "us against them" mentality in which players stand their ground and the asking price goes up when it is time to sit down and talk. No hometown discounts, handshakes, high fives or smiles.
The product on the field won't be affected as coaches will act as the barrier between general manager and team. But behind doors, lines will be drawn and players will form their opinions on how they will approach negotiations.
This kind of thinking runs deep across the league. Players talk and locker rooms become meeting grounds to air concerns and complaints about management. These players know how the lack of loyalty affects their jobs and futures.
And they understand their contracts can be terminated, dismissed and torn up at just about any point over the length of the deal.
That's even more of a reason for Bears players to watch this situation with Forte unfold with curious eyes.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.
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