Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson had a much better day in Saturday’s 24-14 preseason victory over the Washington Commanders than he did in Week 6 last season against the Washington Football Team. Fortson tore his Achilles tendon in last season’s road contest, and Saturday marked his return to action.
His day could not have gone any better.
On the Chiefs’ first drive, quarterback Patrick Mahomes found the 6-foot-6 Fortson for a 5-yard touchdown — on a ball thrown so high former Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller had no hope of defending. On the next drive, the pair hooked up for a second red-zone score with Mahomes threading the ball through tight coverage from Commanders safety Kamren Curl.
“Patrick is just one of the greats,” Fortson said of the touchdowns. “I feel like he has the best accuracy in the NFL. Especially on the second one, I almost don’t know how he got it in there, but he did. And the first one he did a great job putting the ball where only I could get it. I’ve got the best quarterback in the league.”
The best quarterback in the league was willing to give Fortson more credit than the tight end seemed to give himself.
“I think you’ve seen with Jody,” Mahomes explained, “when he’s one-on-one and he has a guy behind him, you can give him that chance. I’ve kind of built that trust with him now. I think you saw it two times today where he wasn’t necessarily open, but when you have a big guy who can catch the ball and make those physical, tough catches, you give him a chance. And he makes me look good.”
Saturday marked the first time Chiefs fans have seen Fortson since he was carted off of FedEx Field in October. Fortson credited many parts of the team in making his return 10 months later possible.
“It’s just a blessing,” he said of taking the field. “I’m honored to be here. I’m so glad that the support system and the team and the athletic trainers and the coaches that I still have here that just were in my corner. And never let me really get too down on myself. It just feels awesome to get back out here — especially in front of Arrowhead, in front of the best fans out here, and score.
“Simple and plain, I just kept working. I just stayed down and kept working as if I was going to play the following Sunday. Because I know this is what I want to do. I want the best I can be. So I just kept working, and now I’m out here scoring two touchdowns.”
Mahomes gave first-hand confirmation of the work Fortson has put in.
“When you’re a guy like that coming off of an injury like that, it’s going to take some time,” the quarterback acknowledged. “But I think the biggest thing I saw — even last year — he was in there every single day. It wasn’t like he went off and did his own thing and did rehab. You can do that, but he was in the facility every single day working. That’s the type of guy that he is.
“He was on the practice squad for two years. He came from a small school. But every single day he’s been here, he’s worked hard. He’s done whatever he can to get himself better. I think it’s paying off for him now, and hopefully he can carry it on to the rest of this season and the rest of his career.”
Fortson also gave credit to Mahomes and fellow tight end Travis Kelce for their support though such a difficult time.
“There’s actually a picture when they were carting me off the field last year,” he explained, “Patrick and Kelce, they were one of the first people to come up to me and be like ‘Hold your head up man, it gets greater later.’ That’s why if you look at my Instagram, I said, ‘It gets greater later, 88.’
“Those are two great leaders. I remember being in junior college watching Kelce score touchdowns. Then coming out of Valdosta State, watching Patrick Mahomes win the MVP. So to actually end up coming and have them two being so high on me — I just couldn’t ask for a better story, man.”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid agreed with Fortson’s sentiment.
“It’s good to have Jody back,” Reid declared. “Jody’s a good football player who had a tough injury — against this team last year, actually. So it’s good for him to get out there and do well.
“Coming off his injury, he was in here every day busting his tail to get himself back in good health. Rehabbing with our trainers and fighting to get back on the field. It’s always good for that story to come out the way it did today.”