FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Matt Forte has no intentions of missing the start of the regular season. Though sidelined by a hamstring injury for much of training camp, the running back guaranteed Tuesday that he’ll play in the Jets’ season opener.
“I’ll be available. Definitely,” he said of facing the Bengals on Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium.
It’s been a slow recovery process for Forte, one of the Jets’ marquee offseason acquisitions. If it were up to him, he’d “be going at it every day to try to be out there on my own terms,” he said. But the Jets medical staff has a different plan in place.
Forte, 30, only recently stepped onto the practice field for the first time this summer. He made his camp debut Sunday, participating in position drills, and his regimented rehab continued Tuesday. He’s practiced only three times and has done only positional work, no team drills.
He said he’s “feeling good” and that everything’s going according to the training staff’s schedule. But he’s not sure when he’ll be able to practice full go.
“The plan is always to be on the field,” Forte said. “I’m just progressing week by week. I’ll be out there soon. I do individual drills, and then I do a lot of conditioning stuff to get back into football shape.”
There have been no setbacks, he said. Just a lot of patience on his end.
“It’s taken longer than expected,” Forte said. “Just because we’re being super, super cautious about it. At this point, there’s no reason to really rush back out there. I got a lot of reps in the offseason. I know the offense. By watching in camp, I know it a lot more. It doesn’t take that long to get back into it.”
Although he has no doubts about being ready for Week 1, he isn’t sure whether he’ll play in the preseason. The Jets face the Redskins on Friday night before their annual exhibition against the Giants on Aug. 27.
“In the last five, six years, I’ve never really played a ton in preseason,” said Forte, who missed last week’s preseason opener against Jacksonville.
And if he doesn’t make an appearance in the preseason?
“As long as I’m out at practice, I think I’ll be fine,” said Forte, who ran for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Bears, amassing more than 1,000 rushing yards in five of them. He also had 44 catches last year after grabbing 102 passes in 2014.
“You’re still getting movement of the defensive line and running through tackles. It’s not tackling to the ground, so to speak. But I’ve had enough of that.”
Jets fans are eager to see what Forte has left in the tank this season. But rest assured, no one’s more anxious about getting back to work than he is.
“This is the most patience I’ve had to have with an injury because I’ve always looked forward to getting out there as soon as possible,” he said. “But at this point in time, it’s been a process throughout camp. They’ve had to hold me back, personally because if it was up to me, I’d be going at it every day to try to be out there on my own terms. A lot of times, they have to protect me from myself.”