Matt Forte on split with Chicago Bears, decision to join N.Y. Jets

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Matt Forte

Running Back, New York Jets

Born: December 10, 1985

Experience: Eight NFL seasons

Interview by Ali Bhanpuri | July 14, 2016

[I knew I wouldn't be back with the Bears] kind of toward the end of the year. Right before I had the knee injury and I missed three games, because I was leading in touches and total yards at one point. And it was like, we talked to them about an extension, obviously, before the season, during the offseason, and then during the season. It was like, OK, the third time you guys don't want to hear what I'm saying, then it was pretty obvious they wanted me to just play out the deal.

At first you're like, why wouldn't they want a guy who does everything right, has been productive since the beginning? But then you look at the business side of it, and you realize you're just a jersey number to them, and it's like, I started to separate from that feeling of where I'm mad about it or angry, and started to kind of cope with the feeling that eventually I'd be somewhere else.

[Free agency] was cool, because you see how people see you as a player. You talk to different teams, and you see what they see on film, other than where you've been at, you know. My entire career -- you only heard from your coaches and your scouts and what they see. So you get a different perspective of what your game is like.

As you get older, [you hear,] "Homie lost a step," and this and that. When you look back at it, and you're playing and [you think,] Well, I don't really feel like that. But you can't agree with everybody's opinion.

[Why I'm not mentioned among the top running backs is] kind of one of those cliché things. Just like when they say the running back is devalued -- You don't need the running back as much anymore -- it's just a cliché thing. When people's perception is like that, it becomes [their reality]. Because when they say the running back is devalued, it's not really true, because every team that goes deep in the playoffs -- goes to the Super Bowl -- they have not just one running back, sometimes they use two or three. Their running game is legit. Like when Seattle was going, if they didn't have Marshawn, I don't think that team does that. So my whole career, they've said, "Oh, he's undervalued and he's underappreciated," and they just continue to use that language.

It was basically an easy decision. Going through the free-agency process, I wasn't approached seriously by a lot of teams. A lot of teams had interest, so to speak, where they call your agent, but when it got down to talking numbers and doing stuff, the Jets reached out the strongest.

I looked at the team makeup, with obviously a friend being there, Brandon [Marshall], and Eric [Decker] being there, too. Two big receivers on the outside. What they did last year in the first year under Coach [Todd] Bowles, and winning 10 games, is awesome. It shows you what kind of coach he is and the staff that they have. And I like what type of offense they have, with a pro style. They use a fullback; that's what I'm used to. The last couple years have been like shotgun-type of running. I'm used to being in the [I-formation] and kind of mixing it up.

The defense is really solid with the guys we have up front and in the secondary and the linebackers. ... I felt like I added a lot of value where if I came into the backfield and continued to be productive and efficient back there, it'll help out the passing game, where [opponents] can't just double-team Brandon and Eric, and also our defense.

It was funny, [Brandon and I] always in March go to PAO -- Pro Athletes Outreach, a Christian conference for athletes -- and he was trying to pitch them to me the whole time, and I was like, "Yeah, man, just wait! Free agency hasn't started yet, man, just wait!"

It's good having him there, to have a guy there I can connect with. He basically during the process was telling me all about the organization and how much he loves it. The main part he talked about that I liked was how different the training room was from the teams he's been around. And I was messing with him, "Hey, you've been on almost every team in the NFL!" But [what he said] was true, you know. I got there, and they take really good care of your body, and at this point in time in my career, health is everything.

The media would always be checking [Jay Cutler] out on the sidelines, his facial expressions, things like that. I've always said he gets a bad rap from that, because if you had a camera on me -- on anybody -- when something goes bad, body language is going to be telling. So he gets a bad rap from that. But I think it all started when he had the playoff game and he went down with the knee injury, and, you know, fans don't, they're on the outside looking in. They didn't know what happened. And if you've got an injury and you can't play, you can't play. So people can say what they want, "Oh, go out there with one leg," but they're not out there.

Highest moment so far ... [we went] to the playoffs once during that time, and we went to the NFC Championship. That was kind of a high moment, but then a super low moment right afterward, because we lost that game.

I'm a thin-crust guy.

I'm not sure how much longer. I take it year by year. Once you get eight, nine years in the league, you start to take it year by year. But as far as goals and aspirations for afterward, I'd like to continue what I've been doing with my foundation, inspiring young kids, and young athletes especially, to be their best, especially with education, because I always say education will take you a lot further than athletics because it's a slim chance that you make it professionally. And then obviously, just talking to and mentoring these kids ... just for the fact that there's a lot of violence going on not only in our communities, but in the world in general. I think [working more with children] would help, just make an impact city by city, kid by kid.

I think it's our responsibility as athletes, you know, the ESPYs were last night, and you saw the guys get up on stage and say something. It's a shame that it takes that much for us to have to do that. I think all athletes, with the platform that you're given, [have] the responsibility to do something, to use that platform to do good, for the guys that come up after you.

We were all young kids looking up to athletes at one time.

I don't really set a specific goal, or number, or set thing like that. I've always said if you consistently are productive, then you can be a great running back.

Geno [Smith] has been doing pretty well. When I got there, I didn't know what to expect. He's definitely changing as a quarterback, his decision-making as well. Just watching him through OTAs and making plays. And especially competing against our defense, which I believe is really good, he's shown some stuff and made some top-notch throws to Brandon and Eric and other guys. So, yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing him during camp, as well, and how he does.

If you come out thinking about November or December or playing tough then, then it's already too late if you've lost those [early-season] games. [The first six are] something to look forward to. It's going to show where we're at as a team, playing against [so many] playoff teams from last year [to the start the season].

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