FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — With each passing day, Matt Forte has become a fixture on the sideline. But the Jets’ new No. 1 running back insists there’s no need to worry about his injury.
“I’ve dealt with one that was a lot worse than this,” he said Sunday, referring to the slight hamstring pull he suffered while running on his own before training camp began. “I actually tore my hamstring my second year and had to deal with that going into the season. But this was just minor. This is a ‘1’ compared to a ’10,’ like a tear.”
Forte, 30, has yet to get on the field in camp because of the injury and currently is day-to-day, according to coach Todd Bowles. But Forte would rather rest now than worry later.
“We’re just taking it slow so I don’t reinjure it,” he said. “Hamstrings are tricky. If you reinjure it, then you could be set back longer . . . Every day I feel a lot better . . . Once [the trainers] give me the go-ahead, I’ll be at practice.”
Jets fans understandably are eager to see him in action. A former second-round pick of the Bears in 2008, he ended his time with Chicago as one of the most successful players in franchise history. And all of those years in the NFL have taught Forte the value of patience.
“This is my ninth training camp, and preseason is a time to get ready for the season,” he said. “So you want to peak going into the season. You don’t want to wear yourself out at training camp, too. So I’ve been afforded the luxury to heal this injury so that I can be at my best.”
He ran for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns, amassing more than 1,000 rushing yards in five of his eight seasons with the Bears, and his pass-catching ability is reason enough for fans to get excited for 2016. Forte has 487 career catches for 4,116 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Forte — who signed a three-year, $12-million deal in the offseason — is just as amped to be a part of Chan Gailey’s offense.
“I love it,” he said. “Just going through it in OTAs, just seeing the leeway and the versatility that you’re able to have. Chan likes to motion running backs out of the backfield, run routes from the backfield, and that’s what I’m used to.”
Forte, who had 44 catches last year after grabbing 102 passes in 2014, said he played “60 percent out of the backfield, 40 percent out” on the perimeter with the Bears.
Time will tell how Gailey, now in his second year as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, decides to use him. But Forte knows his catching ability will be featured along with receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
“I think it will, in the right aspect,” Forte said. “Obviously, with having Brandon and Eric out there, they draw a lot of attention . . . You can’t double-coverage everybody. If there’s a lot of real estate and ground to be made underneath, then I think it’ll happen. Also with one-on-ones, you just find a good matchup. If the matchups are outside, then you’ve got to take your chances there.”
His versatility has been a vital asset his entire career. And he doesn’t expect things to change now.
Said Forte: “If you can line up anywhere and create mismatches, that just plays to our advantage.”