Matt Forte announces retirement
Matt Forte spent the past few weeks weighing his difficult decision — to continue a terrific playing career or walk away from the game he loves.
On Wednesday, one of the NFL's most versatile running backs carried the ball for the final time.
The 32-year-old Forte announced his retirement from playing after 10 NFL seasons in a humble and heartfelt statement on Twitter and Instagram.
"It's time for the workhorse to finally rest in his stable," Forte wrote.
He had one year remaining on his contract with the Jets, but knee issues during his two seasons in New York, as well as his age, made him a likely salary cap casualty this offseason.
Instead, Forte went out on his own terms.
"For the past 10 years, I've been blessed to play professionally a game that I've loved since I was 6 years old," Forte wrote. "But after much prayer and reflection, I've decided to retire from the NFL."
The move saves the Jets $3 million on their salary cap — the same amount if they had released him.
Forte's 9,796 yards rushing rank him 33rd on the NFL's career list. He also had 554 receptions, including setting the league record for running backs with 102 catches in 2014.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection's 14,468 yards from scrimmage over the past 10 years are the most of any NFL player during that span.
Forte spent his first eight seasons with Chicago after being drafted in the second round out of Tulane in 2008. With the Bears, he established himself as one of the best all-around running backs in the league as an electrifying presence who could make plays running or catching the ball out of the backfield.
Forte ran for more than 1,000 yards in five of his eight seasons with Chicago, and caught at least 50 passes six times.
He became a free agent after the 2015 season, and the Jets signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract.
Forte led New York with 813 yards rushing, but it was a career low for the running back who ended the season on injured reserve. He had arthroscopic surgery on the knee at the end of the 2016 season to repair a torn meniscus.
Forte was ready for the season opener, but swelling in the knee worsened last November and Forte said he was "basically playing on one leg" since. He ended up on injured reserve to end the season for the second straight year.
He had a career-low 381 yards rushing on just 103 carries last season and ran for two touchdowns, and also had 37 catches for 293 yards — the second-lowest totals of his career — and one TD.
Colts let Gore go
The Indianapolis Colts have told Frank Gore they do not intend to re-sign him this offseason.
General manager Chris Ballard made the announcement on the first day of the NFL's annual scouting combine.
Ballard says he's never seen a player make such an impact inside a locker room in just three seasons. But Ballard says the team needs to get younger and he wants Gore to finish his career in a place of his choosing.
The 34-year-old running back is fifth on the NFL's career rushing list with 14,026 yards. He needs 76 yards to pass Curtis Martin for No. 4.
Ballard also says Andrew Luck is expected to return to the team complex in early April to continue his shoulder rehab.
Jets release Wilkerson
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was released by New York on Wednesday, ending the one-time Pro Bowl selection's stint with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2011.
The long-anticipated move clears $11 million in space under the salary cap, although there will still be a $9 million charge in dead money that will count against the cap. Wilkerson was due to make $16.75 million next season — which would have become fully guaranteed if he remained on New York's roster by the third day of the league's new year in March.
Coupled with running back Matt Forte's retirement announcement earlier Wednesday, the Jets now have about $90 million in cap space.
It became increasingly clearer late in the season that the 28-year-old Wilkerson's time with the Jets was coming to an end. He was benched at New Orleans on Dec. 17 for being late to a team meeting. Wilkerson then sat out the final two games for what Todd Bowles called a "coach's decision."
The $16.75 million was also fully guaranteed against a serious injury, so the Jets would have been on the hook if Wilkerson got hurt during a game or practice and the injury sidelined him all of next season.
For his career, Wilkerson has 44½ sacks, one safety, 10 forced fumbles and 405 combined tackles.
Panthers release RB Stewart
The Carolina Panthers have released running back Jonathan Stewart.
Stewart became the franchise's career rushing leader in 2017, finishing with 7,318 rushing yards. Stewart's 1,699 rushing attempts are also the most in franchise history, while his 58 touchdowns (51 rushing, seven receiving) are second in franchise history.
"Jonathan played the game the way you want. He brought an element of toughness as a runner that set the tempo for our team," coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. "He is a great pro, and I appreciate who he is as a young man and thank him for the contribution he made."
Stewart helped Carolina to five playoff appearances, and holds franchise records for career rushing yards (474), rushing attempts (101) and rushing touchdowns (five) in the playoffs. His three rushing touchdowns in the 2015 postseason are the franchise high.
Stewart played all 10 seasons with the Panthers after being drafted by Carolina in the first round in 2008 out of Oregon.
Steelers LB Shazier vows to play again
Injured Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier doesn't just plan to play again following a spinal injury. He says he wants to make it all the way to the Hall of Fame.
Shazier opened up to teammate Roosevelt Nix on Nix's podcast, Shazier's first public comments since injuring his spine in a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 4.
Shazier told Nix, who released the podcast on Tuesday night , that he plans to walk again on his own and return to a career that was on the verge of stardom before the injury, one that required spinal stabilization surgery and left him in the hospital for two months.
"I'm really trying to come back and still be a Pro Bowler," Shazier told Nix. "I'm sorry, because I feel I got snubbed this year for All-Pro even though I got hurt. But I feel like my stats are as good as those who made it."
The 25-year-old is undergoing outpatient therapy and has documented a portion of his recovery on social media. General manager Kevin Colbert said last week Shazier has been a fixture at the team's headquarters watching film. Shazier said it's necessary to keep him mentally sharp while aggressively attacking his rehab.
"I've got to get back," said Shazier, who has not released the exact nature of the injury. "Right now I'm reading a book and it's basically saying trust the process. I'm really trusting the process. I know the end goal. So I'm taking every step of the way, I'm giving everything I got. The therapists are like, 'Man this is crazy; I've never seen anyone work this hard.' They almost see progression every day."
Shazier has been vague about specific aspects of his recovery, though he is quick to point out that he can stand on his own, as he did when the cameras cut to him recently while attending a Pittsburgh Penguins game. Either way, Shazier insists he'll one day run back through the tunnel at Heinz Field with his No. 50 jersey on ready to get back at it.
"I'm still reaching for that Hall of Fame because I really feel I'm the best linebacker ever," Shazier said. "I just got to be back out there so everybody can see it. You know what I'm saying?"
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