Forte hopes physical therapy pays off
CHICAGO -- Matt Forte is trying to get back to a training session with his personal therapist, David Reavy, but there someone is blocking his path. Forte's 13 month old son won't let his dad get back to work. He stands directly in front of Forte, like a lead blocker would. The irony is lost on nobody in the room.
"That's the block Daddy needed a few weeks ago," Richard Chew, Reavy's director of business development says.
A chuckle bursts in the room as Forte's parents and wife seem to nod in agreement. Everybody can still recall that fateful play on Dec. 4th when Forte got popped in the knee by Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs. Forte admits now that he saw his career flash before his eyes after taking a shot to his right knee.
"Like everybody says, everything flashes in front of your eyes and all that stuff," Forte said Saturday afternoon. "I was concerned because I knew my foot was planted in the ground, but then I also knew that my cleats came out of the ground, which was a good thing. The pain set in, that hurt pretty bad. And then I couldn't move it, I was trying to move my leg to see if it was all right, but I couldn't, that's what concerned me. Once the pain subsided a little bit I was able to walk off the field, so I knew it wasn't going to be really, really bad. I knew I would probably be out for a little while, but I knew I wasn't ... I was hoping I wouldn't have to have surgery, which I don't."
That's a relief to everyone currently sitting in Forte's home. It's well documented how much Forte has riding on this season, and it could have all been taken away from him on that one play.
Forte hasn’t forgotten how it all transpired.
"Just the beginning, I knew that we were in an unbalanced set and that they had shifted the defense to the strong side," Forte said. "And I knew we were running a weakside run so if I get past [that], if we get a couple blocks, it could be a big play. Our guard pulled around and kicked out the defensive end and there was only the linebacker left. And I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh, this is going to be a touchdown.’ He pulled around, and the linebacker, Derrick Johnson I think it was, he sheds a lot of blocks. He kind of faked outside like he was going outside and slipped under the block. Right when I had planted my foot in the ground to cut, my right leg in the ground to cut to the left, he slipped under the block and ended up hitting me right in the knee."
In the blink of an eye, Forte's world flipped upside down.
"I was expecting, I was anticipating that block," he said. "And as a running back, you have to anticipate blocks. I was anticipating that block happening and [Johnson] made a good play, unfortunately [he] hit me in the knee."
So instead of gearing up for his team's showdown against the Seattle Seahawks, which the Bears lost in embarrassing fashion partially due to his absence, Forte spent a portion of Saturday laying on his back, behind the couch in his apartment working with Reavy, as the rest of his family watched television.
Reavy is busy working on getting the muscles near his client's right knee to fire again while Forte dutifully does as he's told. Forte's knee is very swollen and he is walking with a limp. As he puts it, he is "nowhere near 100 percent."
"When I saw him today, he definitely had a muscle imbalance," Reavy says after the session is completed. "His pelvis was off. He was limping. He was turning his right leg in, almost pigeon-toed. So I knew right away something was off just watching him walk. With that said, I wanted to put things back in alignment. His knee was twisted still because of the injury and it doesn't go back. Muscles respond in a reflex and I'm sure they've been trying to turn on the quad, but it just hasn't responded well to the current treatment [the team is] using."
The injury, Reavy believes, could have been worse. Because of some of the training he and Forte had done, Forte actually caught a break when he was hit the way that he was.
"The injury happened so fast, but his body was balanced and working fast enough to respond," Reavy says. "He just reacted and that's how muscles are supposed to respond, on a reflex. So it was reflex that got that leg not to be planted. If that leg was planted and the lineman hit him, it was a possible ACL tear."
Obviously, that is the worst-case scenario for a player carrying the burden of an uncertain contract situation – he will be an unrestricted free agent following the season, though the Bears are expected to place the franchise tag on him if Forte doesn’t sign a long-term deal. It's clear while watching the two men work that Forte trusts Reavy to put him back together again. After all, Forte was in the middle of the best season of his career before the injury put him on the sidelines.
"The biggest change is explosiveness and everything lined up before the game," Forte says of his work with Reavy. "[Having] all my joints lined up and muscles activated. It allows me to be more explosive out there on the field and that's important at a skill position, as a running back. And also balance; I've been able to break more tackles than I have before."
Forte tried to meet with Reavy before every home game this season. He is seeking him out even more now because of the injury. The pair set up a meeting for Sunday and is expected to touch base several more times in the next few weeks.
"It's an investment," Forte says. "Your body is what makes you play and what allows you to be out there, so you have to take care of it. Even I don't have an injury, I still want to go to David [and] work on stuff, just to be preventative. It's an investment and preventative care."
Like everyone else, Reavy is aware of the kind of pressure Forte is under, but that doesn't mean the running back should be raced back on the field if he doesn't think he's ready.
"Obviously, it's [Forte's] decision and the team's decision, but I want him to be 100 percent," Reavy says. "I want him to feel confident going out there so he doesn't have a chance for re-injury. Because he obviously is in a contract year ... is deservingly [up] for more money. I don't want to jeopardize that at all. That's his livelihood, that's his career."
That's why Forte is still laying on the ground trying to get more work in. He says the swelling isn't even half gone out of the knee yet, but he is still trying to get back on the field to help his team at some point this year. When exactly that time is, Forte isn't sure.
"I'm going to continue to work with David no matter what," Forte says. "But as far as the timetable [for my return], I can't really put a finger on an exact timetable. It's a process, I just have to see how it feels each week, every day."