Michael Ford was a long shot to make the Chicago Bears’ roster this season. He was invited to training camp but few believed he could beat out Armando Allen for the team’s third running back spot.
Yet Ford did just that, displaying plenty of skill as a halfback during the preseason. Yet the reason he leapfrogged Allen had much more to do with his ability on special teams, particularly as a kick returner. It’s the reason the Bears chose to activate Ford last week for the first time this season.
“That decision was just from a return standpoint, to get another returner back there relative to kicking away from Devin,” Marc Trestman said on Monday. “So that's why we did it. And we felt Michael also could hold up in terms of punt return in term of some of the things he was doing as well. But it wasn't for offensive purposes as much as it was for giving him a shot at a special teams responsibility.”
Ford sat down with Bear Report to discuss his first live game action as a professional.
“I finally got the chance to be out there with the big boys. How great is that? I knew my chance would come sooner or later but to have it be right now certainly works for me. It was thrilling when the coach told me to go in. Everything I had ever learned in football since I was a little kid kicked right in.
“Sure, I had some butterflies, but that is to be expected. As a rookie the important thing is how fast you can forget that you are nervous and go on with your game. I think I did pretty well considering it was my first regular season NFL experience. My speed was OK and my moves were what I’d expected. There are a few things I know I can work on this week. I’ll know more about the details of that once I’ve had more time to study the game tapes.
“I’m not a patient guy by nature so it’s been extremely difficult to put a good face on things while I was standing on the sidelines this season. What I tried to do was to contribute by telling the vets what I saw from our opponents. Then, I’d listen in as the schemes were formulated. I’d try to imagine what I’d do out there in the same circumstances.
“But it’s a lot better to be out there playing than it is to be standing and waiting your turn. When you are on the sidelines you have to be constantly prepared and ready to go, but are often disappointed.
“The big thing for me for quite some time has been to get in and get it over with. Leave the nerves behind and stop wondering if you will ever get a chance. Once you have that first game under your belt, it just comes easier.
“I don’t know what the coaches saw in me to tell them that I was ready. I was trusting their knowledge as far as putting me in at the right time. As the game progressed I could tell that my opportunity was coming. It was just a feeling I had. Once I was playing I realized that it’s just football. I felt comfortable and had a lot of fun.
“One thing I definitely noticed was that in the regular season, plays are a lot more intense than in preseason. You’ve got guys coming at you really fast. I’ve been concentrating in practice on working from instinct rather than thinking about the moves I’d be doing. I felt my reaction time was good during the game so all that practice must have paid off.
“Going forward I don’t know how or when I might be used. I hope that I was able to show the coaches that they made the correct decision and that I was ready to go. If they call my number, you can be sure I’ll be out there immediately.
“The road trips were interesting. It’s the type of situation I was accustomed to from college, but at the NFL level, it is different in some ways. There’s a much bigger support staff helping for one thing. You don’t have to worry about anything except getting to the game and doing your job correctly.
“The stadiums are really intense and loud if you are the visitor. But I know when we play at Soldier Field, the fans are just as loud on our opponents. I’m still getting used to the physical setup of our stadium and it doesn’t quite feel completely familiar just yet, but I’m sure that will come in the very near future.
“I see a definite focus by the team this week. We’ve acknowledged our mistakes and have taken steps to correct them. We’re going back to basics and working through our moves until we are satisfied with them. It takes a long time when you are going through all the fundamentals.
“There is no sense of discouragement that I can see, just a determination to come out Sunday stronger and better for our experience in Detroit. It was just a bad day and we can learn from that. The coaches are giving us everything that we need. We’re well prepared. We’ll be ready for the Saints. Now it’s up to us to show we can come back strong.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.