Will this be the extent of Matt Forte's NFL action in 2012?

Ending your work week with a bit of uplifting optimism is always nice. Keep this in mind if you’re a supervisor, and dish out a few compliments as you leave the office, even if they’re entirely untrue, perhaps meaningless, and even useless. Say something like “hey Judy, I really like the color or your phone” or “hey Jim, awesome shirt collar.”

They’ll all thank you later.

Matt Forte isn’t in the business of dishing out Friday afternoon good news or compliments like those dandies. He’s an employee, not an employer, and you can tell because he doesn’t quite get the concept. When speaking about the latest in his contract kerfuffle with the Bears, he had some good news at first, followed up promptly by some news that might be sort of good, but we really don’t know.

Forte has been rightfully bitching about his contract for a year or so now, and he’s realized what Ray Rice will soon realize too: when your job description is “running back” getting paid in the NFL can be exceedingly difficult. That’s especially true now during what looks to be the beginning of a passing era in which those who either throw, receive, or defend against passes are getting the bulk of the monetary gifts. The lackluster production by the likes of Chris Johnson and DeAngelo Williams after their lucrative contracts isn’t helping either.

But Forte is a key figure in Chicago’s offense after he finished 2011 with 1,487 all-purpose yards (997 on the ground) despite missing the final four games with a knee injury. He was predictably franchised, meaning he’s due a one year, fully guaranteed contract worth $7.7 million if he signs his tender before July 16. He’s wisely left it unsigned, though, and he might hold out during training camp, knowing that at 26 years old, this may be his last chance at a long-term contract that gives him security for the next four-to-five years.

As is often the case with running backs, it’s easy to see both sides of this. But as far as his side is concerned, Forte spoke to the Chicago media Friday, and he used an encouraging word.

“Me and my agent are talking to the Bears. So talks continue to go on. I’m really optimistic about that part — we continue to talk.”

He used another magic word in his next comment while also saying that he won’t commit to being at camp on time. Let’s see if you catch it.

“Not playing at all? That actually is an option, but there’s a slight chance of that happening. There’s another option of not being in camp and that stuff. There’s two sides to it.”

The word(s) we were looking for is “slight,” not potato salad. Sorry.

It’s great that Forte is optimistic as we sit here on June 22, just over three weeks away from that July 16 deadline, which is then just over two weeks from training camp (!!!). But the fact that he’s still even entertaining the idea of not only holding out during camp, but also extending that holdout into the regular season is scary for Bears fans.

This isn’t a situation like, say, Vincent Jackson’s hold out in San Diego several years ago, or Logan Mankins’ in New England. Both players were unhappy with their contracts, and they held out during training camp and into the regular season. But they had to report to their teams by Week 10 to register an accrued season and potentially become free agents the following March.

Forte is a restricted free agent under the franchise tag, but he doesn’t need to accrue a year of service to become a free agent since he’s already logged enough service time (four years). Once the tender deadline passes, he has no intention of signing anything that isn’t a long-term deal.

Missing regular season time still seems unlikely, but it’s a club Forte could pull from his bag. So unless his current optimism holds and there’s a compromise, I hope Forte has a comfy couch, and the Bears had better hope Michael Bush can handle a full-time load.