August 21, 2016

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Matt Forte has his sights set on the regular season.

The New York Jets running back just needs his hamstring to be ready, too.

Despite growing concerns over the health of one of the Jets' key players on offense, Forte is confident he'll be able to play in the season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 11.

''I'll be available,'' Forte said Tuesday. ''Definitely.''

Forte tweaked a hamstring while running on his own before camp opened nearly three weeks ago and hasn't fully participated in a practice during training camp. He did individual drills Tuesday, though, as he did Sunday. The Jets were off Monday, but it marked consecutive practices that the 30-year-old running back was on the field.

Forte had not done positional drills since Aug. 2 before working in the past two practices.

''It's taken longer than I expected just because we're being super, super cautious about it,'' he said. ''At this point, there's no reason to 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. So, I'm looking forward to being on the practice field soon.''

Forte, signed as a free agent in March after eight seasons in Chicago, is uncertain whether he will be able to play in any preseason games. He would like to see a few snaps against the Giants on Aug. 27, the last game most of the team's starters will play.

''In the last five, six years, I've never played a ton in the preseason,'' Forte said. ''As long as I'm out at practice, I think I'll be fine.''

But, if he misses the game against the Giants, too, he's not overly concerned that he won't be ready when the games start to count.

Forte has run for 8,602 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career, and caught 487 passes for 4,116 yards and 19 scores during his career. He is coming off a career-low 898 yards rushing in 13 games, but is only two years removed from setting an NFL record for running backs with 102 receptions.

''This is the most anxious I've (been) and the most patience I've had to have with an injury,'' he said. ''I've always looked forward to, obviously, getting out there as soon as possible, but at this point in time, it's been a process throughout camp.''

Forte acknowledged that the training staff has had to hold him back from rushing onto the field too quickly - and possibly aggravating the hamstring injury.

''If it was up to me, I'd be going at it every day to try to be out there on my own terms,'' he said. ''A lot of times, they have to protect me from myself, so I (don't want to) overwork and have a setback.''

NOTES: WR Brandon Marshall has been excused ''for a day or two,'' coach Todd Bowles said, but will be ready to play against Washington on Friday night. ... C Nick Mangold got most of practice off so Bowles and the coaching staff could see others at the position. ... DE Muhammad Wilkerson fully participated in practice for the first time in training camp. The team had been easing him back after he broke his right leg against Buffalo in the last season's finale. ''He ran around fine,'' Bowles said. ''But he's still got some ways to go before he gets in shape.'' ... OLB Trevor Reilly (leg) and NT Steve McLendon (toe) both returned to practice after missing the past several.


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