Jets’ Forte (hamstring) getting closer to full return

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Matt Forte is getting closer to returning to the New York Jets’ backfield.

The 31-year-old running back has not practiced fully since injuring a hamstring during practice on July 31. Forte participated in individual drills Monday, but was held out of the team periods.

”I’m feeling good, but not good enough to be in full practice yet,” Forte said. ”So, I’m just going through what the trainers tell me and easing back in. I don’t want to go back out there immediately and get injured again. Hamstrings are tricky.”

Coach Todd Bowles said Forte, expected to be the starter, remains day to day. The running back missed a chunk of time last summer when he hurt the same hamstring and came back too soon, aggravating the injury and needing a few weeks to fully heal.

”It’s something to learn from,” he said, ”so this year I definitely have to let it heal so I don’t have any setbacks.”

Forte had a career-low 813 yards rushing last season, his first with the Jets, but got off to a solid start. He rushed for 261 yards in the first three games, but a torn meniscus in his right knee diminished his production as the season went along.

Forte sat out the Jets’ 7-3 preseason-opening win over Tennessee on Saturday night, and has found himself getting antsy while waiting to get back on the field.

”For me, it’s real tough, honestly,” Forte said of trying to stay patient. ”Especially with the offense out there grinding through camp. A lot of people are like, `You’re a vet, get your time off and rest yourself.’ But, I don’t like to rest. I like to go out there and prepare for the season. It’s just tough. I’m not used to doing that, but it’s just something you’ve got to deal with.”

Neither Forte nor Bilal Powell, who’s also day to day with a sore neck, played against the Titans and the Jets’ running attack was stifled. They finished with 56 yards rushing, with Romar Morris leading the way with 20 yards on 12 carries.

”I’m out there running routes and stuff now, but the nature of my position, I can’t go half-speed, especially with pads on,” Forte said. ”I’m pretty close to being out there, but you’ve got to take precautions and be careful. You could sprint one time and have it pull worse than before and that’s another couple of weeks. I don’t want to have that linger into the season.”

In other injuries:

– Bowles confirmed that safety Doug Middleton has a torn pectoral and will be out ”for some time” after getting hurt against Tennessee. Middleton will likely need season-ending surgery, but Bowles said the second-year safety is seeking a second opinion.

– Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead, who’s a candidate to be the primary punt returner, left practice with a foot injury. Bowles was uncertain of the severity.

– Linebacker Freddie Bishop sat out practice with what Bowles said was a neck stinger.

NOTES: Tempers flared during practice when LB Lorenzo Mauldin and OT Kelvin Beachum brawled, with Mauldin appearing to punch Beachum’s helmet several times while he was on the ground. Bowles and both players downplayed the melee. ”It’s training camp, man,” Beachum said. ”If you don’t have a fight during training camp, I don’t think you’re on a good team.” Added Bowles: ”There’s one in every camp that we have. This just happens to be the one. So, officially, training camp starts today.” … The Jets waived WR Deshon Foxx and signed WR Daniel Williams, who had 184 catches for 2,497 yards and 19 TDs in four seasons at Jackson State.

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