Matt Forte already ranks as the No. 2 running back in Bears franchise history, trailing only Walter Payton in such things as career rushing yards, rushing TD’s, per-game yards from scrimmage average, 100-yard rushing games, and games with 150-plus total yards.
He will have difficulty catching Payton in most of those categories if only because the Bears’ offense ran almost entirely through Walter for much of his career. After his rookie season, Payton had just two seasons with fewer than 300 carries and both of those were strike years. Forte’s only 300-carry season was his rookie season (2008), and he is part of an offense that includes two Pro Bowl wide receivers and a tight end who caught more passes last season than Mike Ditka did in all but one in his Hall of Fame career.
But Forte is less concerned with specific numbers than with perhaps reaching an overriding one that will take care of others along the way.
“I think I can play 12 years,” Forte told CSNChicago.com. “I love this offense and we’re just getting started, too.”
Coincidentally, or maybe not, a run of 12 years would leave him one short of Payton. But Payton played until his number — age 34 — which is what Forte would be in year 12 of his "plan."
Forte has laid out a strategy that would have made Payton proud. Walter had his legendary “Hill” in Barrington, a steep slope on which Payton would train far beyond the limits of teammates who tried it with him.
Forte has his own workout program but has added a pre-emptive element, that of working with a physical therapist not once, but twice a week.
“Most people wait until they have something wrong before they see someone,” Forte said. “I think it makes more sense to be working on things before they become problems and keeping them from becoming problems.”
Notably perhaps, some of the very reasons why Forte may not be able to reach Payton numbers — Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, to name a few — could be his biggest asset in reaching his 12-year target.
Forte had his least-productive season in year two, the one after his 316-carry rookie year. He netted 1,400 yards from scrimmage, a career low, and just four TDs, matching the career-low of 2012 when he missed four games with a knee injury.
The more the ball is spread around to the offense’s target-rich environment, the better the chances of Forte hitting a career length that would be exactly double the average (six years) for a player making an NFL roster his rookie season.