It was no surprise that unsigned running back Matt Forte did not attend the first day of the Bears' mini-camp Tuesday at Halas Hall. The mini-camp is mandatory only for players under contract, and Forte has yet to sign the $7.7 million offer as the Bears' ''franchise'' player.
Bears coach Lovie Smith was particularly circumspect when asked about Forte after practice Tuesday.
''I can't speculate on that,'' Smith said. ''I'm having a blast coaching the guys who are here right now. It doesn't do any good to speculate on things like that.''
Does he expect Forte to be in training camp, which begins July 26 in Bourbonnais?
''I wouldn't speculate on that,'' Smith said. ''When he shows up, we'll be ready to coach him up then.''
The chronically unflappable Smith was able to fend off inquiries about the Pro Bowl running back at mini-camp, but it might be tougher to avoid the distraction if Forte extends his holdout into training camp.
''It's not an issue for me and it can't be,'' Smith said. ''During the course of the year you have guys who aren't here for whatever reason. 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.''