What do Muhammad and Ford discuss? Just about everything.
"Muhsin has a lot of experience in the league and he has a great perspective on things," Ford said. "I've just been around since 2003 when I was drafted by the Packers. What I've haven't learned by now, Muhsin can tell me. I think of things to ask him every single day. It's a great learning situation for me."
Ford also has found that Muhammad tends to ‘run interference' for the rest of the team during meetings with the coaches.
"Muhsin isn't worried about asking questions. Why should he be? We all view him as ‘The Man'. I tend to hesitate, afraid that the coaches will think what I'm asking is pretty elementary. Muhsin just plows straight ahead. He'll say anything without the slightest concern. We talk to Muhsin about what might be bothering us and he'll take it from there. That way, sooner or later, each of us gets the response that we might need."
Ford is looking forward to the opening game against the Redskins. He feels that the team is ‘more than ready to roll' and will make a ‘big and unexpectedly positive impact on our division', a view that differs markedly from what the national media has said recently about the team.
"Hey, it's hard enough to get myself ready for a game, much less worry about whether or not others might think the Bears are any good," Ford said. "I simply don't have the time for that. And what do those guys know anyway? I certainly haven't seen them in here day after day observing our practices."
But when informed that a national publication had recently picked the Bears for an eventual 3-13 record, Ford seemed somewhat surprised and not at all pleased.
"You know, I wonder why people say that kind of thing about this team. Sure, we weren't that great last year, but so much has changed. The coaching staff is markedly different and the schemes have been revamped. Quite a few new players have been brought in. We're pretty healthy."
And in Ford's view, the changes have been emotional as well as physical.
"Everything seems really good here. From what I can tell, there is a new spirit among the Bears. We want to win and we feel that we can win. It's all positive. Rex went down, Kyle came in. We rebounded from that major change and are now on an even keel. I only see good things coming out of the current situation."
Ford also views the bottom feeder ranking as a clear challenge.
"That's what I call locker room material," Ford said. "I can see some of the guys wanting to post that up on the walls as a challenge to all of us. When you're the underdog, it can lead to good things. Other teams can be lulled into complacency when they think you won't provide much of a contest. That can be a huge miscalculation."
During the off-season, Ford has spent considerable time perfecting his technique and working on agility drills.
"Of course I want to contribute any way I can. To do that, being injury free is my primary goal," Ford said. "I've really focused on stretching drills since the last season concluded. I have found that a by-product of this is I am able to reach the ball much easier. I'm looser and there is a fluidity in my motion that wasn't there before."
Ford's family is planning to make the trip to Washington this weekend to watch him play.
"This has been going on for such a long time ever since I played at Toledo," Ford said. "My dad would hop in the car a day or so before each of my games. He wanted to be there at the stadium waiting for me. This weekend, he said that he has two tickets. I don't know if the rest of my family will draw straws to see who goes, but they'll find some way to work it out. I love it that my family cares enough to make that kind of an effort. It' makes me want to play that much harder."
When asked about his personal goals for 2005, Ford was quick to reply.
"Playing as much as possible, of course, preferably on kickoff and punt returns. Over and above that, I simply want to remain on the team. Nothing is for sure in the NFL and most everything is a day-to-day prospect. I think if I can do the best that I can, then things will go my way. And If I slack off, you can be sure that Muhsin will let me know about it."