Joining a team with two Pro Bowlers at his position, outside linebacker Dee Ford showed the proper deference to the Kansas City Chiefs and his new teammates. That includes linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, even if he couldn't remember Houston's name.
"I love edge rushers,'' Ford said after he was picked by the Chiefs in the first round. "I'm a big fan of Tamba Hali. I'm definitely a big fan of his and the one on the other side.''
Otherwise, Ford, who had 10.5 sacks last season at Auburn, said all the right things. He's making the transition from a college defensive end, so he won't be an immediate starter.
But the situation has the potential to get messy. He could be the eventual replacement for Hali, who turns 31 in November and has a contract the Chiefs may later decide is too expensive, or Houston, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next year.
"My No. 1 goal is to be a sponge and be a great teammate,'' Ford said. "I’m not concerned with the hype. I’m concerned with things that I can control, which is coming into this organization and being a great teammate. I really hope I don’t sound generic or sound like I’m just trying to say the right things. I really mean that. I’m going to humble myself, learn from these vets and man, we’re going to do some things.
"I can’t measure what I’m going to do from what [Hali] did. He’s a dynamic pass-rusher, he’s so beyond me. I need to learn. That’s my No. 1 goal, be a teammate and learn.”
While Ford is learning to play linebacker, the Chiefs will experiment with pass-rush combinations that include all three of their edge pass-rushers. Ford, though, said he is prepared to play on more than just passing downs. He is slightly taller than 6-foot-2 and weighed 252 pounds at the combine in February. That's smaller than either Hali or Houston, so Ford will need to prove he can hold up against the run.
"I’m not perfect in my pass rush or my run game,'' he said. "But let’s be honest, I played in the SEC and I was a starter for two years [and] you have to stop the run. You have to stop the run. And I was a starter. I was not a liability to my defense. I think sometimes when your specialty is pass rush, the natural thing to do is question their ability to stop the run because we’re getting off the ball. And my height, the height issue and all of that, I can stop the run.''