Rookie Michael Ford is making the most of his opportunity
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter August 17, 2013 9:30PM
Chicago Bears running back Michael Ford (32) runs during the first half of the preseason NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: September 19, 2013 10:15AM
Michael Ford watched Devin Hester’s 45-yard kickoff return to open the Bears’ preseason game against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field and challenged himself to match it.
Or top it.
“Just watching him, watching a great returner like that, I just can feed off of his energy because the first return he had he busted,” Ford said. “I just got to match the intensity.”
Ford did one better Thursday night and by doing so helped his chances with the Bears. The undrafted rookie running back from LSU broke off a 100-yard return in the third quarter. He returned a kickoff from four yards deep in the end zone, broke a few tackles, found a hole and took off before getting chased down at the Chargers’ 4-yard line.
Running back Armando Allen’s hamstring injury has opened the door for Ford, who has seen time on most special-team units.
“Both those guys are very good backs,” running backs coach Skip Peete said. “They’re very similar as far as abilities to run and catch the ball out of the backfield. You can utilize them both as a receiver or as a runner.
“Obviously, Armando’s been here for a year and has a little more knowledge of the game than Michael. But I think Michael’s a talented young player and he’s gotten better each and every day.”
But Ford knows it’s on special teams where a job can be won. Allen found a niche on special teams last season, making seven tackles. But Ford is different, he’s a return man. He had three kickoff returns for 160 yards against the Chargers.
“Special teams is where it’s at because we have two great running backs in Matt Forte and [Michael] Bush,” said Ford, who emerged as a kick returner his senior season at LSU after future first-round picks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne left for the NFL. “I just have to find my niche somewhere else because those guys are great running backs.”
Ford learns by watching Hester. Ford may not have Hester’s speed, but with a strong, stout frame he may be harder to bring down.
“[Hester] hits the hole like no other,” Ford said. “Once he hits the hole he’s gone. You can see it on the first return [on Thursday]. He just hit it and it looked like he was taking it the distance. It’s things like that I can look at and get better. I can’t really match his speed … I just have to watch how he reads, watch how he plays.”