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Matt Forte absent as Chicago Bears open minicamp

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears opened minicamp, and one key piece remained missing -- Matt Forte.

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The Pro Bowl running back was absent Tuesday as expected, with his franchise-player tender remaining unsigned. So the stare-down with management continues, and coach Lovie Smith seems to be staying out of it.

Asked if the situation bothered him, he said, "It's not an issue for me and it can't be."

"During the course of the year you have guys who aren't here for whatever reason," Smith continued. "You coach the guys who can go, who can practice. We've been spending all our time with that. I know Matt Forte. I'm sure he's getting ready to go. But in the meantime, the best thing we can do for the Chicago Bears is just keep this train going, which we've done."

Forte's contract status is a major issue for a team aiming high, though. The Bears made several big moves during the offseason -- none bigger than the trade with Miami for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. But one matter remains unresolved.

Forte hasn't signed his $7.74 million tender, and he has a July 16 deadline to agree to a multiyear deal with more guaranteed money. He is not required to attend minicamp because he's not under contract, and Smith insisted he's "having a blast" coaching the players who are. He wouldn't say if he expected Forte's situation to be resolved by now or in time for training camp next month.

"We'd love to have him," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Hopefully we get him for training camp but if we don't, we've got to move on. It's part of the business. I don't think anyone is worried about Matt coming in and not being able to learn the offense or being out of shape. I think he picks things up really quickly. He's a smart guy. He's going to come in in shape. So it's just a matter of time if and when we get the guy."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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