Blake wears the grind of a 14-year NFL career with salt and pepper hair. The Bears are the seventh different franchise he’s suited up for and fourth in as many years. Ironically, at 34, Chicago may be his last stop in the league, but he nearly dawned a Bears’ uniform once before.
“Believe it or not I’ve been trying to get here for the last three years, this is my second trip here,” said Blake, who talked with the Bears as a free agent in 2003 before the team signed Kordell Stewart.
A sixth-round pick from East Carolina by the Jets in 1992, Blake, spent two years in New York. He also played for Cincinnati (1994-99), New Orleans (2000-01), Baltimore (2002), Arizona (2003) and Philadelphia (2004).
Blake went to a Pro Bowl in 1995, when he threw for 3,822 yards and 28 TDs for the Bengals. He has a 77.9 career passer rating with 133 touchdowns, 21,656 passing yards and 99 interceptions.
After playing third fiddle in Philadelphia, the six-foot-1, 223-pounder received minimal interest as a free agent this off-season.
“People say well we’ll just go with what we’ve got and if it doesn’t work out we’ll give you a call,” Blake said.
Even though Blake went seven months between practices, he has still been around football. His 14-year-old son, Emory, will be a freshman in high school and plans on to use his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame as a running back.
“All my other kids are younger than him so they’ve been seeing me play football all my life, so for me to be home this time of year it was strange for them,” Blake said.
Blake may play the father figure for Chad Hutchinson and Kyle Orton, who have 15 games of NFL experience combined, but remain ahead of Blake on the depth chart. The Bears made no assurances that would change. In fact, offensive coordinator Ron Turner went out of his way to say that Blake is not a guarantee to make the team.
“He and Kurt (Kittner) will battle,” Turner said. “I’m excited about Kurt also, so we’ll see where they are.”
The one advantage Kittner would appear to have over Blake is experience in Turner’s system. However, Blake has run a version of the West Coast offense for the majority of his career and should be able to adapt quickly once he memorizes the Bears’ terminology.
Reserve linebacker LeVar Woods was a teammate with Blake in 2003, where he started 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals. While the team went 3-10 with Blake under center, he always carried himself in a professional fashion.
“Jeff’s a pro’s pro,” Woods said. “He’s a proven veteran, been to the Pro Bowl, played in big games, played a lot of games. Been in the league a long time so he definitely knows what he’s doing.”
Although Blake’s better days are behind him, his wealth of knowledge will be a resource for the young crop of quarterbacks. Blake has started 100 games and that has given him the opportunity to see pretty much everything the league has to offer.
“Playing 13 years in the league, I have a lot of knowledge of the game, and I can’t take it with me; I have to pass it on, so I’m here to help out and do as much as I can in that aspect and also be ready to play if my time comes,” Blake said.