What has Bears running back 'disappointed'

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What has Bears running back 'disappointed'

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, September 8, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Matt Forte hoped to have a contract extension. Instead, he's still waiting for his big payday. The Bears running back said Wednesday he's "disappointed" he wasn't able to get an extension from Chicago, and with talks shelved for now, it seems unlikely he'll get one anytime soon. Instead, there's a good chance he'll play out the fourth and final year of his rookie contract after failing to reach an agreement, something he hoped would get done before the opener this week against Atlanta. "Yeah, it's a little surprising," he said. "I'm disappointed that it wasn't. Like I said, coming into the league, you feel like this is supposed to be production-based. And when you produce in the offense, you expect the team or the organization to actually notice that compared to other guys. We just couldn't meet in the middle." He also disputed the notion that both sides had agreed to table the talks, saying he's still open to negotiating. That goes against what general manager Jerry Angelo said earlier in the week, when he told WBBM-AM in Chicago that the decision was mutual, although he wasn't completely slamming the door on the possibility of reaching an agreement by the end of the season. "He said that? I didn't say that, so I guess it wasn't mutual," Forte said. "But that was his decision. I can't really decide if we continue to talk or not. He's the one we talk to. The door's always open on my end." Forte wasn't the only high-profile Bears player seeking a new deal. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs has said he wants to be traded if the organization won't renegotiate his six-year, 36 million contract, and with three seasons left, management clearly is not budging. Forte's situation is different, though. If they don't agree to a deal before the end of the season, he could test the market. The Bears could also slap him with the franchise-player tag. Fifth in the NFL with 4,731 yards from scrimmage since he entered the league, he had considered holding out at the start of training camp but decided against it. He was reportedly offered a deal that guaranteed about 13 million or 14 million, but he could be looking for something closer to the five-year, 43 million contract with 21 million guaranteed that Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams. "I'm not going to get into the specifics about it," he said. "It's just (that) we couldn't meet in the middle." Forte has "no regrets" about showing up for camp on time rather than holding out. "I handle it like I always do," he said. "I'm a professional. This is the National Football League, and that's what I was going to do -- come in and be professional about it, which is come into camp, work hard every day, get ready for the season. It's unfortunate that the contract situation, I did not get a contract extension, but I have no regrets about what I've done." Quarterback Jay Cutler expects nothing less from Forte than to handle the situation professionally. "He handles himself well," Cutler said. "He knows what it's all about. At the end of the day, he goes out and has a great year, he's going to get probably more money than he was going to get before." Forte is coming off a solid season in which he joined Walter Payton as the only Bears players to finish with at least 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving. He ran for 1,069, averaging a career-high 4.5 per carry, and tied for the team lead with 51 receptions for 547 yards, but he plays a high-risk position. There's a reason running backs generally have shorter shelf lives, and an injury this season would make any team think twice about giving Forte a big deal. So it's easy to see why he doesn't want to wait even if he said this about the risk of going down: "You can't go out there worried about that." It's also not hard to see why the Bears were at least willing to listen, given the way he has performed for them and that his price could go up if he has another good year. Angelo said early in training camp that they were "motivated," that it was their "intent" to get an extension for Forte, but he didn't set any timetables or make any guarantees. "I don't think he lied," Forte said. "We tried to get a deal done. It was just, maybe they have a different view of the type of player I am than the type of player that they think I am."

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

Addison Russell planning to become next Cubs superstar

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell earned his manager’s trust by playing “boring” defense, always making the routine plays at shortstop with textbook fundamentals. Even Russell’s agent called him an “old soul,” already serious about his craft and driven by quiet determination and husband-and-father responsibilities.

But the Cubs also know Russell as a moonwalking showman with the freaky athleticism to do Ozzie Smith backflips and make spectacular highlight-reel plays. And you could see the vroom-vroom, fist-pumping celebrations after yet another clutch hit.

“Ever since I was a little kid,” Russell said, “I always wanted to be on the big screen.”

Now Russell will try to make the leap to superstar, as one of the many personalities on a Cubs team that can crossover nationally and live forever in Chicago, just like the ’85 Bears, the way Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have built their brands.

“We got great ballplayers, beautiful faces on this team,” Russell said. “Just talent galore in this clubhouse, and that’s really cool to see, because these guys handle themselves like real, true professionals.”

The start of spring training is a reminder that Russell has still only spent one wire-to-wire season in The Show. He turned 23 last month and has already become a World Series champion, the youngest player in franchise history to start an All-Star Game and the first Cub shortstop to reach 95 RBI since Ernie Banks in 1960.

Russell’s World Series grand slam helped him accumulate the most postseason RBI (14) in club history – after putting up 11 game-winning RBI for a 103-win team. FanGraphs also had Russell tying San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford for the major-league lead with 19 defensive runs saved at shortstop.

“Really, the sky’s the limit,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is scratching the surface. He is that good. Know thyself – I think that’s what’s happening with a lot of our young guys. They’re understanding themselves better. And as they do, their game’s going to continue to improve.

“So with Addie, listen, he could be an annual All-Star, there’s no question. Beyond that, he’s just such a gifted athlete, so quick, and he cares so much. And he’s really turned out to be a good self-evaluator, so all those are components to creating a superstar.”

Russell said he’s working with Boras Corp. on potential endorsements with Pepsi and Audi. He visited a Nike headquarters in Oregon to help design his custom cleats and custom glove. He also posted images from the White House on his social-media accounts, which have nearly 549,000 followers combined between Twitter and Instagram.

“The opportunities are coming, which is great,” Russell said. “It’s a whole new playing field. I’m glad that I’m getting to see a different side of baseball, where I can actually find a couple talents off the baseball field. It’s all interesting stuff.”

It’s also taken some getting used to, as he almost had trouble remembering how many “Addison Russell Days” there were in Florida, between events at Pace High School and with the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners.

“This whole fame thing is really new to me,” Russell said. “Walking everywhere, people want autographs and stuff. Different airports, different cities, it’s very humbling. It’s a great blessing. I’m just a small-town guy, so it hit me pretty hard.”

Like the moment Russell realized what the Cubs just did, after the whirlwind of riding in the championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, standing on stage in front of millions at the Grant Park rally and going to Disney World.

“I remember this past offseason, going into my mom’s room and laying down on her bed,” Russell said. “That’s when all the memories of this past year – all the way from spring training (to) the All-Star Game and then the World Series run – it all hit me at once. It was overbearing, kind of, and I started crying.

“That’s when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment.”

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”