FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A week and a half ago, Matt Forte, soft-spoken but firm, stood in front of cameras and tape recorders and proclaimed his distaste for Thursday night games. In a sport that asks so much of its athletes, he said, short weeks are a recipe for injuries.
A few days later, in his best game of the year, he rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries as the Jets beat the Bills on a Thursday night.
That was last week. On Friday, he stood in front of those same cameras, but this time his right knee was in a brace. The swelling that usually goes down after games had gotten worse, and he will not play Sunday against the Buccaneers.
The Jets then have a bye week, and Forte thinks he can return Nov. 26 against the Panthers, but he offered no guarantees.
“I’ve been playing with swelling in my knee for a while,” he said. “It just got to a point where it’s getting significantly worse. Obviously, coming from a Sunday game to a Thursday game, there’s less recovery time and it just got worse on me . . . I’m pretty confident [of returning in two weeks]. I’m looking forward to that. I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be doing that, but that’s what I want to happen. It’s just a matter of getting the swelling out of the knee where I can be effective on the field.”
Forte said an MRI showed only swelling. There is a possibility, he said, that the knee will be drained if the swelling doesn’t abate. Pain, he said, is omnipresent. “I always have pain,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”
On Friday, Forte and defensive tackle Ed Stinson were ruled out. Five other players are questionable: cornerback Morris Claiborne (foot), center Jonotthan Harrison (hand), receiver ArDarius Stewart (groin), defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, foot) and guard Brian Winters (abdomen).
Jermaine Kearse said it stands to reason that Thursday games beget more injuries. Getting rid of Thursday games is something that should be considered the next the time the CBA is up for negotiation, he said.
“Yeah, definitely [I’m alarmed],” he said. “There are games that there’s a 100-percent injury rate. That’s the truth, that’s the facts. Guys might be dealing with stuff from previous games that they’re still trying to recover from, but they’re still going out there on Sundays and playing and giving it their all, and then you give them a short week like that, that’s tough.”
And though injuries are never welcome, it comes at a particularly frustrating time for Forte, who two games ago criticized offensive coordinator John Morton for not calling the run enough in a loss against the Falcons. Morton listened, and despite playing against one of the best rush defenses in the league against the Bills on Nov. 2, the Jets routinely called the run and performed well.
“I felt like as a whole offense, not just me, that we were starting to play really well and score points,” Forte said. “It’s not a good time, obviously, to have it, but I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is what I do in training each and every day . . . I’m determined to get back just because we’re going to be coming off a bye week and we’ve got a six-game stretch where we need all these games. I just want to be out there and impact the game as much as possible so we can win.”