FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Matt Forte took a few handoffs in individual drills and tested out his healing hamstring. Then, instead of heading to the trainer’s area or into the facility, the New York Jets running back stayed on the field for team drills.
Forte fully practiced for the first time in training camp Wednesday — a positive sign for a guy the Jets have been cautious with after he tweaked a hamstring running on his own last month.
“It was good to see him getting in shape,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We got him some reps today, first time taking team reps. Hopefully, that won’t have any ill effects tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”
Forte declared Tuesday that he would “definitely” be available to play in the regular-season opener on Sept. 11. That seemed even more likely on Wednesday with his first significant snaps of camp.
Before Sunday, Forte hadn’t even participated in individual drills since Aug. 2. He appeared to have little concern about his health when talking Tuesday, his second straight practice in which he did positional drills after the Jets were off Monday.
“He’s got to get into some football shape,” Bowles said. “They weren’t tackling or really hitting him. He was about three-quarters speed. We look forward to him getting better. If he doesn’t have any setbacks (Thursday), then we’ll move forward.”
New York plays its second preseason game Friday night at Washington, and Bowles wouldn’t rule out Forte to play — but sounded as though it would be unlikely.
“He’ll warm up,” the coach said. “Chances are slim, though.”
It’s more likely that Forte, as long as he has no setbacks, will make his debut against the Giants next week in the third game, when most of the starters play into the second half and then sit out the final preseason game.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson could see his first game action against the Redskins after fully participating in practice for the second straight day. He has been working his way back from a broken right leg, suffered in last season’s finale against Buffalo.
“I’m feeling good,” Wilkerson said. “I felt better than I did yesterday, so that’s a good thing.”
A first-time Pro Bowl selection last season, Wilkerson is one of the key parts of Bowles’ defense and they are guarding against rushing him back.
Bowles said Wilkerson has a better chance than Forte of playing. The defensive end was happy to be able to take the next step in his rehabilitation while participating in team drills in consecutive days.
“I got to hit some of the offensive linemen and get back in the groove,” Wilkerson said. “I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”
New York will be counting on a healthy Wilkerson to anchor a defensive line that is an overwhelming strength of this Jets team. Along with Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon make up one of the NFL’s top units heading into the season.
“We could be great,” Wilkerson said. “We’ve just got to keep on pushing each other, keep competing, and each and every week, go out and dominate.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Dexter McDougle re-injured a hamstring Tuesday and didn’t practice Wednesday. Bowles was uncertain of the severity of the injury.
Safety Doug Middleton (leg) and running backs Dominique Williams (concussion) and Romar Morris (shoulder) did not practice. Right tackle Breno Giacomini (back) and wide receiver Devin Smith (knee) remain on the active/physically unable to perform list.
NOTES: QB Christian Hackenberg, the team’s second-round draft pick in April, could make his debut against the Redskins. “That’s the plan,” Bowles said. “We’ll see how it works out.” Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty all saw time in the preseason opener against Jacksonville last week, but Hackenberg remained on the sideline. … WR Brandon Marshall had an excused absence from practice for the second straight day, while C Nick Mangold was given a rest day.
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