Florham Park N.J. - The New York Jets continue to make progress towards the 2016 season, as running back Matt Forte was in pads for the second consecutive practice on Tuesday. Forte resumed individual workouts on the field, which included receiving handoffs and passes from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It is a promising sign for Forte, who has missed team drills during training camp due to a balky hamstring.
"I'm progressing every week with some positional drills," said Forte. "No setbacks."
Little by little, Forte is gaining strength back in his legs. Tuesday was a major step in the right direction as the running back was able to complete certain drills with the Jets offense. By doing so, Forte is gaining more reps and knowledge of the offensive playbook that Chan Gailey instilled last season. Because he has not been on the field the entire summer, there is skepticism Forte will not be ready for Week One against the Cincinnati Bengals - that is something he completely disagrees with.
"As long as I am at practice learning and watching, I'll be fine," said Forte when asked if the lack of reps would affect his preparation. "I'll definitely be available for Week One. I'm looking forward to being on the field soon."
This is slightly unfamiliar territory for Forte. While there were bumps and bruises along the way, the eight-year veteran says he has not battled a hamstring injury like the one he has been dealing with - since OTAs - in his career. That is why Jets management suggests there is no rush to get him back on the field and risk further injury. Time is not an issue for Forte. While he would love to be on the field during training camp and preseason with his teammates, Forte remains focused on the bigger picture - the regular season.
"It's taken a lot longer than I expected because we've been super cautious," said Forte. "At this point, there is no reason to rush."
The main goal is to have Forte healthy by opening day. If that means sitting out the majority of team drills or preseason games, then those will be the matters taken to ensure a healthy Jets number one running back will play against the Bengals. It is worth noting that Forte never played a full preseason during his Bears career yet sustained success. In fact, the extra rest should help Forte build off his 102 catches for 808 yards and four touchdowns in 2014 and 44 catches for 389 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.
"I got a lot of reps learning the offense in the offseason. This is the most anxious I've ever been because we don't want to do something where I overwork or have any setbacks," said Forte. "One of the goals is to be flexible in the offense. Chan [Gailey] is a great coordinator."
The term "flexibility" describes Forte perfectly. He is a dynamic running back known as a duel threat that can come out of the backfield with speed and strength or catching ability. It also helps he is constantly around the team and continues to learn with his offense in the classroom. Chemistry will not be an issue.
"It's not like he's not here, he's just not out there full time," said center Nick Mangold. "He's an added bonus and an added weapon. To have the option to bring him in is only going to help us."
When exactly Forte will participate in team drills is still uncertain. Coach Todd Bowles says: "I don't have a timetable [on Forte], we understand the process with him and we'll take our time."
Forte should take all the time he needs to ensure the hamstring tweak will heal. After all, a Matt Forte with a clean bill of health can give the Jets offense a tremendous weapon that will open many windows of possibility for Chan Gailey to get creative.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null