Justin Forsett Even Hungrier Than Last Year


On the surface, it seems that Justin Forsett had, once and for all, buried his doubters. 

He ran for more than 1,200 yards, averaged more yards per carry (5.4) than any other NFL running back, and was voted to the Pro Bowl.

Then free agency came and reservations about Forsett flooded back to the surface.

Forsett eventually signed a reported three-year, $9 million deal with the Ravens, but the process once again reenergized the veteran running back.

As he enters his second season with Baltimore, Forsett is looking to prove not only that last year wasn't a fluke, but that he can do even more.

"The hunger that I have now is actually more than I had last year, believe it or not," Forsett said.

"Even in free agency, there were still a lot of doubters, still issues with size, speed and other stuff – even after I've shown throughout my whole career that when I get an opportunity I've been able to do well. I'm always going to have that fire, always going to have that chip on my shoulder." 

Forsett's story was one of the league's best in 2014. The 2008 seventh-round pick finally got a chance to be a starter at age 29, in his seventh season. The Ravens were Forsett's fifth team, and his signing hardly drew a crowd.

At this time last year, Forsett was seen as the Ravens' No. 4 tailback and essentially an insurance policy while starter Ray Rice was suspended.  When Rice's two-game suspension was made indefinite, Forsett beat out Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the starting job.

The rest is history. Forsett posted 1,266 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and 44 receptions for 263 yards. Coupled with a greatly improved offensive line, Forsett turned around Baltimore's running game that struggled in 2013.

But that wasn't the end of his story.

"I've never set out in my career to just go out and have 1,000 yards and that was it. When I set out to be an NFL player, I wanted to be the best to ever do it," he said.

"I have the opportunity, even though it's late in Year 8, and I'm going to try to make the most of the opportunity and leave my mark on this team. There's so much doubt and I have so little time."

Forsett admits that if he had that same big year earlier in his career, he may not have had the same urgency to repeat. There would still be years and years to climb higher.

Forsett will turn 30 on Oct. 14. That puts him on the wrong side of history, which shows that running backs tend to fall off the proverbial cliff.

Forsett is a different case, however. Due to his late start, he only has 582 carries on his legs. By comparison, Rice had 668 three years into his career. Forsett said he was a little sore after last season ended, but feels good now and is in even better shape this year by the team's measurements.

He will try to join elite company by reaching at least 1,400 yards at age 30, something that has been accomplished by just eight NFL running backs in league history, according to ESPN. Forsett set the benchmark higher than that.

"I got close to 1,500 with 1,200. I want to at least get 1,500 this year," he said. "With the same offensive line, I think the second year is going to be even better."

The major difference from last season at this time is how Forsett feels about his role on the team. Last year, he said he felt like he had to "get in where I fit in." He didn't know what the end of training camp was going to mean for him. Would his career be over?

"It's definitely a lot different than knowing whether you're going to make the team or not and being the starting running back," he said. "I would say it's a lot of responsibility. I feel that when I'm out on the field, it's my job to go out and set the tempo, be that constant encourager and leader on the field."

Forsett was a constant face at the Under Armour Performance Center this offseason, partly because he lives right around the corner and he and his wife had their second baby boy, Zion, on Valentine's Day. The other reason is that he has become one of the team's core leaders.

He didn't have to show up at Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Yet Forsett is there, learning and leading the younger players such as second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and rookie fourth-round tailback Javorius "Buck" Allen.

The other reason is that Forsett still isn't comfortable.

"I've signed a three-year deal here, but nothing is promised," Forsett said.

"For this contract, it's a yearly thing. This could be my last year, and I'm going to make sure that if I'm going to go out, I'm going to put my best foot forward. I'm hungry to prove and maximize this opportunity, even though it's late."

Take a look at some of the best moments captured on camera of the running back's best season of his career.

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