TE Chiefs Jody Fortson ‘ready to go’ in return for Achilles injury – Chiefs Digest
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Most of the attention during the Chiefs’ three-day minicamp this weekend is focused on rookies and even superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But it’s hard to miss when the ball heads for tight end Jody Fortson.
Fortson’s 2021 campaign ended just as it was taking off. In the first six games of the season, he had five catches for 47 yards and two scores on just 54 offensive snaps. Then disaster struck.
In the Week 6 win over Washington, he fell to the ground with a torn Achilles tendon in his left heel. It was just the final turn on a roller coaster that twisted Fortson through community college and Division II Valdosta State before landing a tryout with the Chiefs in 2019. He turned that invite into a career in the NFL which is now entering its fourth season.
The latest injury may have shattered some players’ optimism, but not Fortson.
“First of all, I kept my faith high,” Fortson said after Sunday’s minicamp practice. “I have a strong support system, especially with my family and my team around me. I just attacked every day like I was going to play on Sunday.
Now just over nine months away from surgery, he is back on the pitch with no restrictions to prepare for the campaign ahead. He credits several people around him for his quick return to action, starting with his mother, family and friends, as well as head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and his teammates.
“I was in the rehab room, just working, continuing to work like I was going to get dressed that Sunday,” Fortson said. “They never really allowed me to put myself down, so I was never really depressed.”
He reserved his highest praise and gratitude to Tiffany Morton, the club’s assistant athletic trainer who oversaw his rehabilitation after surgery on his torn Achilles.
“I owe God a lot, but I owe her a lot because she was really on board and didn’t let me give up,” Fortson said. “There were days when I was like, ‘Tiff, I don’t want to do this. But she stayed on top of me and made sure I fought. So shout out to Tiff.
Now 26, Fortson exhibits a demeanor with more focused determination than in past seasons. He had to work fast to get where he is now, but patience is Fortson’s biggest goal for 2022.
“Not rushing my routes so quickly, letting everyone see where I fit into the puzzle, where I fit into the grand scheme of things,” he said. “Not trying to do too much, trying to do my job to the best of my abilities.”
Fortson has achieved several key milestones marking his return from injury. After hosting Team Practice Activities (OTAs) this spring, Fortson returned home to Georgia, working with Stephon Brown at Top Shelf Performance.
“I had a lot of reps during the OTAs, but once that was over and I was able to go home with my coaches at Top Shelf and Steph and work on my breaks and so on, I felt ready to go at that point,” Fortson said.
The next test will be on August 1 when the team puts on the pads for the first time in training camp. Eyes will be on Fortson as he takes that first hit to see how he picks himself up for the next game. He says he’s ready for it.
“I’m not worried about the hits. None of that,” Fortson said. He adds that he has the same attitude and mentality he had when entering his first camp in 2019.
It’s just a dog-eat-dog environment,” Fortson said. “That’s how I see it. What kind of dog are you going to be?
Notes and Observations
Cloudy skies and abnormally cool temperatures greeted the Chiefs on Sunday. A day after the thermometer hit nearly 90 degrees, a cold front moved into St. Joseph, keeping the temperature around 79 degrees from start to finish of the 86-minute workout.
Practice was a little faster than Saturday, with the rookie class once again getting a refresher on what to expect when camp begins in earnest on Monday. After conditioning, individual drills, group work and a brief setup period, the team conducted two 7-on-7 sessions with more individual work and special teams training focused on kick-offs.
In the 7-on-7 period, receiver Cornell Powell made one of his best training camp appearances of the past two seasons. Powell seemingly carried every pass that came his way, even making a few catches of the best moments. During the first session, Powell pounced on a deep ball from Patrick Mahomes on the left sideline, retaining possession of the ball as it touched down. Three plays later, he made a virtually identical catch, this time on a deep throw to Chad Henne’s right sideline. He outdid himself moments later when he made a contested hold with rookie defensive back Nazeeh Johnson in cover, losing his helmet as he went to the ground but holding the ball.
Mahomes made his best shot of practice in the 7-on-7 second period, hitting tight end Jody Fortson on a corner route to the right side of the end zone.
A few defensive rookies also made notable plays on Sunday. The only failure of the day for Mahomes came when cornerback Joshua Williams battled wide receiver Skyy Moore to break up the pass. Linebacker Leo Chenal finished the second period 7-for-7 by tipping a Dustin Crum pass intended for the end zone and securing the interception on the second effort.
The Chiefs’ defensive coaches are excited about Chenal’s potential as a downhill player at the line of scrimmage, but it’s in passing coverage that he can improve the most as an all-around player.
“These pieces are going to come if you’re an assignment sound,” Chenal said. “It’s just a credit to the defense and we learn what we’re supposed to do.”
The club reported no new injuries on Sunday, but two rookies returned to the pitch. Linebacker Leo Chenal was a full participant after leaving Saturday practice early due to the heat. Defensive lineman Kehinde Oginni Hassan also returned after sitting out Saturday as a precaution.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder), right tackle Lucas Niang (knee) and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (leg) remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but attended practice. Rookie receiver Justyn Ross (foot) also remains on the PUP list but has not been scouted on the field.
The rookies are back for a quick practice Monday morning starting at 9:15 a.m. The final practice of the three-day minicamp is not open to the public. Rain is also forecast, which could further shorten training or move activities indoors. Veterans usually get a day off after the final minicamp practice.
Chiefs and officials at Missouri Western State University will hold a press conference officially opening training camp at 11:30 a.m. Monday. Team President Mark Donovan will be joined by University President Elizabeth Kennedy and Mosaic Life Care CEO Mike Poore.
Veterans must report to camp by 10 p.m. Monday, but there won’t be the traditional pageantry of players entering dorms from years past. The team is scheduled to hold virtual press conferences with linebacker Nick Bolton, center Creed Humphrey and receiver Mecole Hardman.
After an acclimatization day on Tuesday, camp kicks off at full speed on Wednesday, July 27 with a practice at 9:15 a.m. open to club season ticket holders. Virtual tickets must be purchased on the team’s website. Admission to most practices is free, but the university collects a parking fee of $5 per vehicle.