Af­ter be­gin­ning year slowly, run­ning back Forsett re­leased

Veteran started 3 games, then was benched Sun­day

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec and Edward Lee

Two days af­ter de­ac­ti­vat­ing Justin Forsett and one day af­ter coach John Har­baugh was non­com­mit­tal about Forsett’s fu­ture, the Ravens re­leased the veteran run­ning back.

Two years ago, Forsett was a highly re­spected voice in the l ocker room who helped the fran­chise over­come the public sting as­so­ci­ated with Ray Rice’s do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent in Fe­bru­ary 2014. Now he is a free agent el­i­gi­ble to sign with any team.

Tues­day’s move seemed in­evitable af­ter Forsett, who started the first three games this sea­son but was in­ef­fec­tive, was Justin Forsett benched for Ter­rance West in Sun­day’s 28-27 loss to the Oak­land Raiders at M&T Bank Sta­dium. It marked Forsett’s first healthy scratch since Sept. 7, 2008 — the first game in his rookie year with the Seat­tle Sea­hawks.

Forsett, 30, did not re­turn a re­quest seek­ing com­ment but posted on Twit­ter to thank Bal­ti­more for the past three years.

“Bal­ti­more will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart. Love y’all & thank u for the amaz­ing sup­port over the years,” he wrote.

Forsett’s spot on the team’s 53-man ac­tive ros­ter ap­peared ten­u­ous af­ter Har­baugh was asked Mon­day about the run­ning back’s fu­ture.

“Justin Forsett is a highly re­spected,

highly val­ued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us,” Har­baugh said. “It’s a com­pet­i­tive world that we’re in. It’s a com­pet­i­tive league, a com­pet­i­tive sport, and he knows that as well as any­body. It doesn’t di­min­ish him in any way. It en­hances him in terms of how you han­dle it. We’ll just have to see. All of those per­son­nel things are all to be de­ter­mined. You can’t say any­thing about where any­thing is go­ing to go. You just don’t know. None of us have that abil­ity to see into the fu­ture. So we’ll see how it plays out.”

Forsett told the team’s web­site that the de­ci­sion to part ways was mu­tual af­ter he talked to gen­eral man­ager Ozzie New­some.

“I felt like my op­por­tu­nity here was clos­ing,” Forsett said. “I’m at a phase in my ca­reer where I don’t want to sit; I want to play. I have a lot of football left in me.”

The re­lease caps an up-and-down two-month pe­riod for Forsett, who had seem­ingly res­ur­rected his ca­reer in Bal­ti­more. Af­ter bounc­ing around with the Sea­hawks, In­di­anapo­lis Colts, Hous­ton Tex­ans and Jack­sonville Jaguars, Forsett signed a oneyear deal April 4, 2014, to join the Ravens.

He played 16 games that sea­son (in­clud­ing 14 starts) and led the team in rush­ing yards (1,266), car­ries (235) and touch­down runs (eight). That per­for­mance earned him a three-year ex­ten­sion worth $9 mil­lion. At the time, Forsett joked that it was com­fort­ing to get a longer com­mit­ment from the Ravens, who “put a ring on it,” he said.

His 2015 sea­son was short­ened by a bro­ken arm that side­lined him for the fi­nal six games of the sea­son. But he still led the of­fense in rush­ing with 641 yards and 151 at­tempts.

OnSept. 3, the Ravens re­leased him as part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ros­ter cuts to get down to 53 play­ers. How­ever, the move was more of a pro­ce­du­ral one, and the team planned to re-sign him all along, mak­ing it of­fi­cial Sept. 5.

Forsett opened the sea­son as the starter. How­ever, he gained just 98 yards on 31 car­ries in the first three games and did not ap­pear to have the quick­ness to make tack­lers miss or the burst to run be­tween the tack­les.

West (Tow­son Univer­sity, North­west­ern High) started in Forsett’s place Sun­day and rushed for a ca­reer-high 113 yards and one touch­down.

Buck Allen, a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, was ac­tive Sun­day for the first time this sea­son, and car­ried the ball three times for 13 yards, and caught two passes for 15 yards.

The Ravens are also ex­pect­ing the re­turn of rookie Kenneth Dixon. The fourth-round pick led the team in rush­ing in the pre­sea­son be­fore suf­fer­ing a strained MCL in his left knee in the third game of the pre­sea­son Aug. 27.

Dixon has made progress from the in­jury, prac­tic­ing fully Fri­day af­ter two con­sec­u­tive days of lim­ited par­tic­i­pa­tion. He is ex­pected to make his NFL de­but Sun­day against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

Forsett’s de­par­ture would seem to ce­ment West as the start­ing run­ning back. But Har­baugh would not make that of­fi­cial Mon­day.

“I’m not go­ing to say that,” he said. “I’m not go­ing to get into all that. I just think that’s great to write about, but for us, it’s noth­ing for us to waste any en­ergy on. We’re go­ing to put the guys out there that are play­ing well. Our guys know this: If you’re play­ing hard, you’re play­ing smart, you’re play­ing fun­da­men­tally sound, and you’re pro­duc­tive, you’ve got a chance be­ing out there again be­cause ev­ery­body’s count­ing on ev­ery­body else to get the job done. If one of those things falls down, then you leave the door open for an­other guy to get their op­por­tu­nity.”

It is not im­me­di­ately clear what the Ravens will do with Forsett’s ros­ter spot, but one op­tion is us­ing it to ac­ti­vate tight end Dar­ren Waller from the sus­pended list. Waller served a four-game ban for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s pol­icy on sub­stance abuse. The team has un­til Oct. 10 to de­cide what to do with Waller.

The club also worked out safety Shamiel Gary. Gary played in four games with the Mi­ami Dol­phins last sea­son.

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Justin Forsett hangs on to the ball as Bills de­fend­ers gang up on him in the opener Sept. 11. Forsett had just 98 rush­ing yards on 31 car­ries this sea­son.

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