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A healed Justin Forsett eyeing 1,000 yards and a strong stretch run

Ravens running back Justin Forsett ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards and is on pace to finish the season with 1,153 yards.

The cut across the bridge on Justin Forsett's nose is healing up, finally knitting after a long run of bloody Sundays for the diminutive Ravens running back.

Forsett doesn't mind the battle scar that much, considering it something of a badge of courage from his series of collisions with much larger linebackers and a reminder of the most prolific season of his career.

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"During the bye, I was really focused on taking care of that and not picking at the scab and making sure I was covering it up," Forsett said in the Ravens' locker room. "Hopefully, it doesn't open up again on Monday night. They put some more air in my helmet. We'll see if that works because it keeps dropping down on me."

Forsett is in the midst of a breakthrough season. Once regarded as a place-holder during Ray Rice's original two-game NFL suspension, Forsett has earned the starting job ahead of Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

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Forsett ranks seventh in the NFL with a career-high 721 rushing yards, and he's on pace to finish the season with 1,153 yards. A 1,000-yard season is a milestone that Forsett has been chasing for a long time during a journeyman career that's included stops with the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It's close, man," said Forsett, who has rushed for five touchdowns this season. "If we just keep doing what we're doing, it'll be fine and we'll be able to reach that mark. It's a goal of mine and it's a goal for us a unit."

The 5-foot-8, 197-pound Forsett is averaging 5.42 yards per carry, which ranks second in the NFL behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's 7.72 average per run.

Forsett also ranks second in the NFL behind Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray with eight rushes of 20 yards or longer. And Forsett has 24 runs of 10 yards or more, again ranking second in the league behind Murray. Forsett has accomplished all of this while averaging only 13.3 carries per game.

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"He's playing the same way he played a few years ago, in my opinion. It's just all of the sudden the opportunity was there, and he took advantage of it," said Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who coached the former Cal running back with the Texans two seasons ago. "Through the situation, 'Who was going to step up? Who was going to be our back this year, our feature back?' we went into it thinking we were going to play a lot of guys, and all of the sudden with his play, he said, 'No, you're going to play me.' You have to give him the credit for that happening."

Forsett was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans in the last game before the bye. He's recovered from a sprained ankle and is no longer limping.

"I feel good," he said. "I feel recharged, energized every day at practice."

Although Forsett lacks ideal size, Kubiak said he's not concerned about Forsett's ability to shoulder the workload down the stretch.

"He's a tremendously conditioned player when he works out here," Kubiak said. "He takes care of himself. I don't see any reason for him not to keep going. It's always important that we take a little bit of the pounding off of him. We try to do that with Bernard and Lorenzo a little bit.

"But we're getting down to the last six weeks, and you're not saving much for anything, right? It's time to go. I know Justin wants to be out there every down, and if he can hold up, he's probably going to be out there quite a bit."

Playing in a primetime game Monday night against the New Orleans Saints is particularly significant for Forsett.

"It's going to be fun," Forsett said. "You have to cherish these moments. Growing up as a kid ... you always wanted to play on Monday night. It doesn't get much better."

awilson@baltsun.com
twitter.com/RavensInsider

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