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No further talks scheduled between NFL, officials

Upon Further Review Football AP

With all sources insisting that nothing was happening between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, the two sides secretly engaged in two days of talks earlier this week.

Jay Glazer of FOX first reported that negotiations occurred, for the first time in more than two weeks.  We’ve confirmed that, indeed, talks occurred.  A source tells PFT, however, that no further talks are scheduled.

As Glazer reported, serious financial issues remain between the two sides.  And the fact that talks occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday helps explain the out-of-the-blue press release issued on Tuesday by the NFLRA regarding the pension issue.

Apparently, the officials opted to send that “open letter” after the NFL closed the door on the possibility of changing the pension plan for new officials only.

Either way, the two sides have resumed the posture of folded arms and furrowed brows, as everyone hopes the replacements don’t eff up another weekend of football.

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Russell Wilson, Alex Smith competing for chance at sack record

Russell Wilson AP

On Monday, MDS pointed out that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been sacked 18 times this season. On Monday night, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson caught him, with six against the Lions.

Wilson has now been sacked 18 times through four games, putting him on pace for 72 — and putting both guys in position to challenge the all-time record of 76.

The bigger concern is a matter of basic physics. The more a quarterback is hit, the more likely he’s eventually going to be hurt. For Wilson, who does a great job of avoiding contact and properly absorbing it when running, getting banged around by guys he doesn’t see coming behind the line of scrimmage eventually could do harm that no amount of nanobubbles will quickly heal.

So if the offensive line isn’t going to do a better job of blocking, Wilson needs to get rid of the ball faster and/or to get out of the pocket quicker. Or he may not be on the field long enough to be sacked 76 times.

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ESPN producer on illegal bat: “We all missed it live”

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One of the odd aspects of the Seahawks winning Monday night’s game on a bad call is that ESPN made no mention of it on the air during the game. ESPN’s Monday Night Football producer says it was simply a matter of the ESPN crew not realizing it was a penalty in all the action surrounding the game-changing play.

Producer Jay Rothman said in a statement to PFT that they would have offered up extended replay angles and commentary if they had realized the Seahawks committed a penalty, but they didn’t realize it until after the game.

“Our immediate responsibility in the frenzy of the play was to provide definitive looks of the turnover,” Rothman said. “Due to the immediate and decisive call of a touchback by the Back Judge and Referee Tony Corrente, and no disputing of the call by the Lions, we had no signs of the illegal tip. We all missed it live. Clearly, had we caught it, we would have extended the looks of all angles. And had we done so, the booth would have clearly seen the illegal tip. Having said all of that, it would not have determined the outcome of the game, as currently an illegal tip is not reviewable.”

It’s a little surprising that Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and any producers in their ears didn’t catch the bad call because Tirico and Gruden are good at what they do, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football production is usually first-rate. You’d think one of them would have noticed the illegal bat. But people miss things. It happens.

What’s harder to understand is how Gerry Austin, the former NFL referee who sits in the booth with Tirico and Gruden, didn’t notice it. Austin’s entire job is to analyze officiating. This was one of the biggest calls of the NFL season, and Austin whiffed. Perhaps Austin is hesitant to point out blown calls because he knows how hard the job of being an NFL official is. But if that’s the case, he’s not cut out for the job he has. And make no mistake, the job he has is a hard one. Although Mike Pereira does a good job of explaining NFL rules in his role as an analyst on FOX, Mike Carey struggles in a similar role on CBS, and Austin has struggled in his smaller on-air role on ESPN.

Another issue is that the NFL’s rules are incredibly complicated. Players, coaches, fans and the media often have a hard time understanding the rules. Monday night’s game showed that sometimes even the officials miss calls right in front of their faces. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a professional rules analyst misses some calls, too.

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PFT on NBCN looks at which bad offense will be not bad


The Eagles and Dolphins have stunk on offense this season. Is one of them likely to turn it around?

It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s today’s poll question for NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.

Tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET to see the results, and also to hear more about the bizarre outcome of Monday night’s game between the Lions and the Seahawks.

Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly will get you up to date on all big issues in the NFL.

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In Washington, there is no last year

Terrance Knighton AP

For a team that rarely has reason to look forward to tomorrow, there’s currently a ban on thinking about yesterday.

In Washington, where the franchise surprisingly is 2-2, some players insist that the 2015 version of the team never be compared to last year’s model.

“If I hear anybody say ‘This is what happened last year,’ I go crazy,” defensive lineman Terrance Knighton said after Sunday’s win over the Eagles, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Damn, just like last year.’ I’m like, no. No! Guys like myself, guys like [Jason Hatcher], guys like Trent Williams, guys like Dashon Goldson, we don’t let people talk about the past in this locker room. I better not hear it.”

“[T]his is a new team,” Williams said. “Sometimes lessons can be learned a year later, but the majority of the time, there’s really no point in talking about it. The focus should be on what’s ahead of us.”

Williams, sort of peeking into his rear-view mirror, admitted that in prior years Washington would have withered after the Eagles erased a 13-0 deficit in the second half.

“I think the easy thing would have been to say, ‘You know what? They came back on us,'” Williams said. “We could have let that type of aura creep through the whole team, and we could have laid it down. But like I said, this is a different team from last year.”

One of the biggest differences is that, through four weeks, the team is tied for first place. Sure, they’re still not above .500. But looking at the record would be only to indulge the recent past. The focus should be on the fact that 12 games remain, and that Washington has every right to think it can win the division.

Which I never would have typed last year.

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Report: Saints to release Kenny Phillips

Vincent Jackson AP

The Saints are bringing in a new punter while Thomas Morstead recovers from a leg injury and that’s reportedly going to cost safety Kenny Phillips his spot on the roster.

With Brandon Fields coming onboard, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that the team will release Phillips for the second time this season. Phillips was released before the first game of the season and returned in Week Two after Rafael Bush was lost for the season.

Phillips started the last three games for New Orleans and had 12 tackles in those games, but the return of Jairus Byrd to the lineup for last Sunday’s game against the Cowboys likely made the Saints feel comfortable about moving forward without the veteran.

Those three games were the first for Phillips in the regular season since 2012 with the Giants as knee issues kept Phillips off the field for the last two seasons.

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Vikings trade Gerald Hodges to 49ers for Nick Easton and a pick

Gerald Hodges AP

The Vikings and 49ers opened up the season against each other and they got back in touch on Tuesday to make a trade.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman announced that the team sent linebacker Gerald Hodges to the Niners in exchange for center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick.

Hodges started three of the first four games for Minnesota this season, making 20 tackles, and played in 25 other games since being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Spielman said, via Ben Goessling of, that the team likes what they’ve seen from 2015 second-round pick Eric Kendricks and decided to use their depth at linebacker to shore up another spot.

Minnesota’s starting center John Sullivan is on injured reserve with the designation to return, leaving Joe Berger to start the first four games of the season. Easton, who was acquired in a trade with the Ravens in early September, gives them another option at that spot.

Hodges started at middle linebacker for the Vikings and joins an inside linebacking group with the Niners that includes Navorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Shayne Skov and Nick Bellore.

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Andrew Luck: I’m preparing to start

of the Indianapolis Colts during the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Getty Images

Andrew Luck wasn’t on the field during the portion of Colts practice open to the media on Tuesday, but his absence came to an end once the media left the scene.

Coach Chuck Pagano said that Luck, who is dealing with a right shoulder injury, was a limited participant in practice and that he threw passes while taking most of the first team reps during the session. Matt Hasselbeck, who started in place of Luck against the Jaguars last weekend, didn’t practice because of an illness.

Pagano offered little insight into Luck’s chances of playing by repeating his standard refrain that the quarterback is trending in the right direction. Luck also met the media and said that he’s operating under the assumption that he’ll be in the lineup against Houston on Thursday night.

“I’m preparing to start, and to play,” Luck said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “I think I’ve gotten better every day. I don’t think I’m necessarily where I’d want to be today in a perfect, perfect world.”

Wednesday will bring another practice and the release of the team’s final injury report before facing the Texans.

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Bucs promote Dye, Jones from practice squad

Donteea Dye, Chris Lewis-Harris AP

The Buccaneers made a series of roster moves Tuesday in addition to bringing back kicker Connor Barth.

The team also placed defensive end T.J. Fatinikun on injured-reserve and promoted wide receiver Donteea Dye and defensive end Howard Jones to the active roster from the practice squad.

The promotion marks a big step for Dye, an undrafted rookie who played collegiately at Div. III Heidelberg. Jones was the NFL’s highest-paid practice squad player, so it’s fair to assume the Bucs had Jones in the plans, sooner or later. Jones spent all of 2014 on the Steelers’ practice squad.

Fatinikun sustained a knee injury in the second half of last Sunday’s game against Carolina.

The Bucs also signed offensive tackle Reid Fragel and defensive end Josh Shirley to the practice squad and released tackle Martin Wallace from the practice squad.

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Rams bring back Jo-Lonn Dunbar

St. Louis Rams v Minnesota Vikings AP

The Rams are holding off on making any injured reserve moves with linebacker Alec Ogletree until after he has surgery on his broken fibula, but they know that they’re going to need some help at the position in the coming weeks.

They brought back a familiar face to provide some of it on Tuesday. The team announced that they have signed veteran linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. There was no need for a corresponding move since the Rams had an open roster spot after trading wide receiver Chris Givens to Baltimore.

Dunbar spent the last three seasons with the Rams before being released before the start of this season. Dunbar started 36 games over those three years and recorded 190 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Akeem Ayers and James Laurinaitis started the first four games with Ogletree, leaving Dunbar, Daren Bates, Bryce Hager and Cameron Lynch as the other options at linebacker in the near future.

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Saints adding former Dolphins punter Fields

Brandon Fields AP

The Saints tried out four punters and have decided on former Dolphins punter Brandon Fields as their temporary replacement.

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reported that the Saints are signing Fields because they expect injured punter Thomas Morstead to miss a game or two with a strained quad.

Kicker Zach Hocker served as the emergency punter in last Sunday’s win over the Cowboys after Morstead’s injury. Marvez also reported the Saints will take a look at other kickers this week after Hocker missed a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys.

Fields, 31, was replaced by the Dolphins in training camp after seven seasons with the team. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013.

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Joe Philbin’s last practice showed he had lost control

Joe Philbin AP

Joe Philbin’s last practice as head coach of the Miami Dolphins demonstrated how thoroughly he had lost control of his team.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Saturday practice in London before Sunday’s loss to the Jets featured heated exchanges among quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive players who weren’t following Philbin’s instructions.

The report says Philbin told the defensive players to take it easy during Saturday practice so that the offense could work on getting its timing down. However, linebacker Chris McCain was still practicing aggressively, and that led to a shouting match between he and Tannehill. According to the report, Tannehill made a crack about giving McCain a scout team trophy. Other scout team defensive players then joined in and were aggressively going after the first-string offense, despite Philbin’s request that they ease up.

If it went down how it’s been described, it doesn’t speak well for Philbin’s ability to keep practices under control. If the head coach has told the scout team to settle down and let the offense work, the scout team should respect the head coach enough to do so. The head coach should also foster an atmosphere where there’s enough team camaraderie that the starting quarterback isn’t making cracks about the scout team guys.

After Philbin was fired on Monday, interim head coach Dan Campbell stressed at his introductory press conference that he wanted to see more competitiveness on his team. Although Campbell was careful not to criticize Philbin, it wouldn’t be surprising if Campbell saw Saturday’s incident as a sign of a team full of players who weren’t accustomed to pushing each other hard enough at practice. With Campbell now running the show, starters and scout teamers alike should be ready for tougher practices.

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Does Peyton Manning care about numbers? Absolutely

Peyton Manning, Eli Manning AP

There was a suggestion during Sunday’s Vikings-Broncos game that Denver quarterback Peyton Manning doesn’t care about numbers. The new book from Gary Myers regarding the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady rivalry suggests otherwise.

Chapter 1 begins with a story about the 2007 regular-season finale between the Giants and Brady’s undefeated Patriots. Peyton Manning called his brother, Eli, with a request.

The request wasn’t to keep the Patriots from becoming the first team to go 19-0 (although the Giants would get that job done later). It was to keep Brady from breaking Peyton’s single-season touchdown pass record.

“Anytime players say statistics are just numbers and they don’t pay attention, they’re not telling the truth,” Myers writes. “Manning might have been funny as guest host on Saturday Night Live and a tremendous pitchman in all through television commercials, but he has an ego, a big ego. Manning wanted that touchdown record to be enduring, just as Dan Marino did when he threw forty-eight back in 1984, shattering the old record of thirty-six set by Y.A. Tittle, which had stood since 1963. At least Marino’s record lasted twenty years. Manning’s was on the verge of being wiped out after just three.”

So Eli passed the message along to linebacker Antonio Pierce, with Pierce requesting dinner for the defense at Del Frisco’s in Manhattan if they kept Brady’s 48 from surpassing Peyton’s 49.

Ultimately, the Giants failed to keep Brady from getting to 50. Six years later, Peyton would get his record back, with 55.

If/when someone is ever closing in on breaking Peyton’s record of 55 touchdown passes, look for Peyton to find a way to plead with the opposing defense to keep it from happening. Because he cares about numbers. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Byron Maxwell “can’t really run,” but expects to play this week

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Cornerback Byron Maxwell was forced out early in Sunday’s loss because of a quad injury and he provided an update on his condition on Tuesday.

Maxwell said that he has a quad contusion that is feeling better as more time passes since the injury, leaving him to believe that he’ll be able to play when his 1-3 team takes on the 1-3 Saints in Week Five. That confidence is undermined a bit by Maxwell’s description of his condition at the moment

“It feels a little better,” Maxwell said, via “But I still can’t really run, and slowing down is hard.”

Maxwell’s first year with Philly after signing a six-year contract as a free agent hasn’t gotten off to a good start for him individually or for the team, something that he’ll try to change against Drew Brees if he gets the green light to play.

The Eagles also saw linebacker Mychal Kendricks leave against the Redskins and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it will be “a stretch” for his hamstring to be ready this week.

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No sign of Andrew Luck during open portion of Colts practice

Divisional Playoffs - Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoon and we’ll have to wait until he does for some word on what he did during Tuesday’s practice.

Neither Luck nor Matt Hasselbeck was on the field for the portion of practice open to the media. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reports that they were likely warming up inside the team’s facility while their teammates stretched and went through special teams drills.

Luck was listed as a limited participant in Monday’s practice because of the right shoulder injury that kept him out of Week Four and Hasselbeck said after the session that he does not expect to make another start this weekend.

Cornerback Vontae Davis was sitting out of practice for a second straight day because of a foot injury. His absence would leave the Colts without their top cornerback and likely create some opportunities for Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Thursday night. Defensive tackle Henry Anderson, linebacker Bjoern Werner and cornerback Jalil Brown were also on the sideline during Tuesday’s session.

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Pete Carroll: I didn’t know batted ball rule

Pete Carroll AP

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said he didn’t know that he should have been penalized for batting Calvin Johnson’s fumble out of the end zone on Monday night and he wasn’t alone on that front.

Coach Pete Carroll said that it was “unfortunate” that the officials didn’t apply the rule correctly after the game and on Tuesday admitted that he would have been taken aback if they had thrown a flag and returned the ball to the Lions. Carroll said that his staff tells players to knock loose balls out of bounds, but wasn’t aware that it’s against the rules to do that in the end zone.

“I would have done the exact same thing. I would have done the exact same thing,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN. “I didn’t know that rule either. I’ve never even seen it come up and I’ve been coaching for — I don’t even know how many years it is and how many games it could possibly be — I don’t know how anybody would have know that one. If they did, they did.”

Carroll probably should have known about the rule since the Seahawks were guilty of breaking another section of it in a 2013 game against the 49ers. In addition to barring players from batting the ball out of the end zone, the rule also makes it a penalty to bat a loose ball toward the opposing end zone as Seahawks safety Chris Maragos did with a blocked punt in that game.

Monday night’s play came in a bigger spot so there shouldn’t be too many people around the league unaware of the rule thanks to the attention generated by the non-call.

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ESPN dropped the ball on illegal bat

gerryaustin Getty Images

The officials weren’t the only ones who screwed up when the Seahawks weren’t flagged for an illegal bat in Monday night’s win over the Lions. ESPN also dropped the ball by waiting until after the game to point out that Seattle should have been penalized, and the ball should have been given back to the Lions, after Calvin Johnson’s fumble into the end zone.

After the fumble, neither Mike Tirico nor Jon Gruden said anything at all about the illegal bat, which the NFL has since admitted should have been a penalty on the Seahawks that would have given the Lions first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. That’s surprising because Tirico is a consummate professional who’s always well-prepared for any game he calls, and Gruden is a former coach well known for his obsessive attention to detail. You’d think both of them, or at least one of them, would know that rule.

But it’s even more surprising because ESPN has former NFL referee Gerry Austin in the booth on Monday nights specifically to weigh in when there’s an officiating mistake. Tirico even pointed that out on Monday night, saying, “Retired Super Bowl referee Gerry Austin up here in the booth with us” at the start of the fourth quarter. At the start of the Lions’ drive that ended with Johnson’s fumble, Austin was on the air discussing the relevant rule when Lions’ punt returner picked up his own muffed punt and ran it out of the end zone.

So where was Austin a few minutes later? Why didn’t he immediately pipe up and explain that the officials had missed a huge call? We’ve reached out to ESPN to ask that question, but we didn’t immediately hear back.

Eventually, ESPN did identify the blown call, but only after the game, several minutes later. The blown call is the biggest story of Monday night’s game, but many viewers turned off the TV and went to bed without even realizing it had happened.

The NFL’s rules are so complex that identifying bad calls immediately and explaining them clearly is a hard job. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira does the job well on FOX, but former referee Mike Carey has struggled in a similar role on CBS. Austin is used less prominently on ESPN, but Monday night was a perfect opportunity for him to shine. Instead, we never heard a word from him until the game was over.

To its credit, ESPN has done a good job of covering the story today. Mike & Mike began their broadcast this morning with a long discussion of the blown call, and it has been prominently featured on other ESPN programming all day long. But the time to identify the blown call was when it happened, and ESPN missed it.

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Jim Irsay: “High likelihood” that one or two teams in L.A. next year

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With NFL owners gathering in New York for their fall meeting this week, the situation in Los Angeles is at the top of their stack.

And even though there’s still plenty of politicking going on, the consensus remains that professional football will be back there soon.

According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Colts owner Jim Irsay said there was still a “high likelihood” that one or two teams would be in L.A. in the 2016 season.

As we’ve reported, the current lean is not toward Stan Kroenke’s bid to take the Rams to a stadium he wants to build in Inglewood, rather the site in Carson which would be shared by the Chargers and/or Raiders.

With a group of influential owners including Jerry Richardson steering the process, it’s clear the league wants to resolve this issue. And if Irsay’s comments are any indication, that could be sooner rather than later.

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Bills sign RB Boom Herron

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The Bills have signed running back Daniel “Boom” Herron to bolster their banged-up running back room.

The Bills worked out some running backs, including Trent Richardson, on Tuesday because rookie starter-for-now Karlos Williams is dealing with a concussion. LeSean McCoy is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury.

Cierre Wood was promoted from the practice squad last week. Boobie Dixon is probably ahead of Herron and Wood in line as Williams, who’s scored a touchdown in every game this season, awaits clearance.

The Colts waived-injured Herron last month and then released him from injured reserve with a settlement. Herron is a veteran of 25 career games and three starts and played well down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Colts last season. The Colts signed him off the Bengals’ practice squad in 2013.

The Bills created a roster spot for Herron by placing tight end MarQueis Gray on injured reserve. The team also signed wide receiver Walter Powell to the practice squad.

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Unbeaten Bengals announce rare sellout vs. Seahawks

San Diego Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The 4-0 Bengals host the Seahawks Sunday, and the locals are apparently excited.

The game is sold out, a rarity in Cincinnati. The Bengals had about 58,000 fans for each of their two previous home games this season.

In addition to announcing a sellout this week, the Bengals announced that “limited” tickets are left for a Nov. 5 Thursday night game vs. the Browns. The listed capacity for Paul Brown Stadium is 65,515.

The Bengals didn’t get more than 60,000 for a game last year until their fifth home game. They sold out 57 straight games from Nov. 2003-Nov. 2010, but the team struggled in 2010 and longtime fan favorites Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco were gone the next season. The Bengals didn’t crack 45,000 for either of their first two home games in 2011, but the team has been in the playoffs every year since and averaged over 63,000 fans in 2013 before seeing a slight dip last season.

The Bengals were the only team to vote against the NFL nixing local TV blackouts last spring, but team owner Mike Brown insisted that was related to a revenue-sharing issue, not actually forcing fans to come to the stadium to see the team play. Even when the NFL relaxed its blackout rules, the Bengals initially didn’t want to declare sellouts unless they’d actually sold out.

The Bengals hadn’t had a home game blacked out since 2012, and now they’re seeing reward at the box office for what’s been one of the league’s most impressive teams on the field over the season’s first month.

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Forte on trade talk: I don’t think I’m going anywhere

Matt Forte AP

The Bears made a pair of trades last week after losing their first three games of the season, which led to a lot of talk about more moves to come as the Bears try to put together a better team under new coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace.

One of the players whose names came up in that talk was running back Matt Forte. Forte’s contract is up after this season and there hasn’t been much sign that the Bears are clamoring to bring him back in 2016, which made it easy to speculate that a backfield-needy team might make a run at bringing him to their offense.

During an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday, Forte said he doesn’t think that’s going to happen.

“I don’t worry about those things,” Forte said. “A lot of it is media speculation, just like in the offseason they were like ‘the Bears could trade Matt.’ Everybody was talking about me getting traded then and it didn’t happen. Now after one guy gets traded, it all comes back again. I can’t control that either. They can trade me if they want to. I don’t think I’m going anywhere, but I can only control how I play on the football field and that’s what I do.”

Forte said that he wants to be on a winning team, but that he’d like the Bears to be that team. That looks like a tall order to pull off in 2015, so things would have to change on the contract front for Forte to reach that goal.

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