Toward the end of practice on Sunday, Forte emerged from the locker room, walked past the crowded bleachers and received an ovation from the fans. He smiled.
Injured players usually don't get cheered, but Forte -- yet to practice because of a pulled hamstring -- isn't just any player. He was the Jets' biggest off-season acquisition, and he's being counted on to replace leading rusher Chris Ivory.
Now for the sobering dose of reality: Forte apparently isn't close to returning to practice on a full-time basis. He participated in positional drills for the first time since Aug. 2 -- and only the second time since camp started -- but he's not ready to handle a full practice, according to coach Todd Bowles.
"No, I don't see him doing more each day," Bowles said after practice. "This is part of the rehab process. He'll still be inside (getting treatment) on some days."
Forte, who injured his hamstring before camp, probably won't play next Friday against the Washington Redskins in the second preseason game. At this point, it's fair to wonder if he'll get any preseason work at all. Bowles, who doesn't reveal much about injuries, declined to give a projected return date.
"He's making progress. He's got time," he said. "We'll just play it day by day."
It'll be interesting to see how Forte responds if he gets no game action. Historically, he likes work in the preseason. In his last five seasons with the Chicago Bears, he averaged 15 carries per preseason. Here's a not-so-far-out-on-a-limb prediction: He won't get 15 rushes this summer.
The Jets are taking the right approach. It would be pointless to rush back a 30-year-old running back known for his durability. But if you believe in harbingers, this isn't a good one.