Chicago Bears star running back Matt Forte isn't sure when he'll return from a sprained right knee.
His status for the rest of the season is in question after he left in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with a sprained medial collateral ligament, another major blow for a team trying to land a playoff spot in the NFC. Forte's injury came two weeks after quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb late in a victory over San Diego.
The Bears (7-5) have dropped two straight since then after winning five in a row, and although coach Lovie Smith has said he expects both players to return, neither is making any guarantees.
Forte said players with injuries like his generally miss two to six weeks. He got a plasma injection Tuesday morning hoping to speed the healing process, but he will sit out against Denver this week.
"It's disappointing," said Forte, who has started all 60 games since he was drafted in 2008. "It's going to be my first game missed in my entire career. I've been playing going on four years and haven't missed a game. I'm not excited about that."
RB Matt Forte
Already missing their star quarterback, the Bears' fortunes took another bad turn when Forte got hit in the right knee by the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson on a run for no gain deep in Chicago territory with 6 minutes left in the first quarter against Kansas City.
He stayed down for several minutes while being tended to by medical personnel before walking off the field on his own power. He remained on the sideline for a short while and headed to the locker room, with five carries and 12 yards.
"I saw (the hole)," Forte said Tuesday night at a fan appearance at a Magnificent Mile store. "I planted my leg in the ground to go to the left, to go outside. (Johnson) kind of slipped under the block, hit me right in the knee. It was a good play by him. Unfortunately, his helmet hit me right on the knee and my leg was planted in the ground."
Forte couldn't move at first. His leg was burning, but once the pain subsided, he was able to leave the field on his own power, which was a relief for him.
When the MRI showed no major structural damage, he exhaled again knowing he didn't need surgery. The question is when he'll be back, and on that end, he's not sure.
Forte played through a similar injury in 2009.
"They're different because my leg was actually in the air. This time, my leg was planted in the ground so it was more severe," he said. "I just got to try to get the swelling out, get the soreness out to where I can start being more functional."
Entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, Forte was seeking an extension. Talks went nowhere, but that didn't stop him from having a career year. He was leading the league in yards from scrimmage and was third in rushing entering Sunday's game.
He's not sure how the injury will affect negotiations, but he insisted he has no regrets about turning down what the Bears were offering - reportedly around $15 million guaranteed.
"I never second-guessed myself about taking the offer because it was too low," Forte said. "If a guy is a top-five running back, he's not going to take bottom-five money. I never second-guessed myself about that, but as far as how it affects the negotiation now, I don't know. You'll have to ask them that because they have some decisions to make. I'm going to try to heal up as best as I can and go from there."
With Forte out, the Bears will rely on Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell to carry the load.
Barber ran for 44 yards on 14 attempts against the Chiefs. He also lined up illegally, wiping out his 4-yard touchdown catch and forcing Chicago to settle for a field goal in the first half. Bell finished with 34 yards on four carries.
Clearly, the Bears are in a difficult spot without Forte and Cutler.
"Everybody has to be up to the challenge and work through it," Forte said. "I think the guys on our team are able to work through that. They have a lot of resilience. We have a lot of resilient guys on our team, a lot of character on our team, so I think they'll be fine. They're not really too down about it."
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