Being down on the depth chart at a respective position means to be active on game days a player must be able to contribute on special teams. In the season opener, the difference between Bobby Wade and Carl Ford being active was versatility.
"Bobby is still there as a punt returner, but as we look at our roster, if you're the fourth, fifth receiver, you have to do quite a bit more than just one special team," said head coach Lovie Smith. "Carl Ford has moved up really because of the amount of things he can do for us special-teams wise, as a gunner, he's on the kickoff team, punt return team."
Ford had played gunner only twice before taking on the role in the preseason. He proved his worth against the Redskins, making one tackle and being the first man down field in coverage five times. He helped hold Washington to an average of 2.5 yards per punt return. Still, he knows the pressure is on every week to make a similar contribution.
"That's the way I'm gong to have to approach every game, every practice even, go out and just perform and let these coaches know that I want to be here and that I can help the team win," Ford said.
As a receiver, Ford is hoping success on special teams will be a springboard to show what he can do with the ball in his hands. In the preseason, he caught five passes for 83 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown from Kyle Orton in the Hall of Fame Game.
"The number one goal is to be a wideout in the NFL, but hopefully this will get me in the door and give me more opportunities to be a receiver," Ford said.
The Toledo product was a seventh round pick by the Packers in 2003. Ford impressed enough to warrant consideration for the Green Bay 53-man squad as a rookie, but an MCL sprain in the preseason finale landed him on injured reserve. Green Bay waived him a year later during the final roster cut down. He spent the entire ‘04 season on the Chicago practice squad.
After two years of uncertainty, Ford believes he's finally found his niche in Chicago.
"It doesn't feel as long as it seems," Ford said. "Three years I guess is a long time, but it all worked out for the best."
Like Ford, Davis was a long shot to make the team heading to Bourbonnais. He spent four years in the Arena Football League, primarily as a receiver.
However, Davis earned a spot as the fourth corner and could get a chance to return punts when his sprained left hand heals. In the meantime, Davis is contributing as a gunner. He downed a Brad Maynard punt at the one-yard line, added a tackle and forced a fair catch on two occasions vs. Washington.
"Then Carl was on the other side killing those other guys, so I think we have one of the best punt cover teams in the league, if not the best," Davis said.
While the goal might seem a bit ambitious for two players with one game each of NFL experience, Ford and Davis are pushing one another with the Bears reaping the benefits.
"They're both very fast," said special teams coach Dave Toub. "I think they command the double-team, I think that's important. When you've got two guys blocking those guys it frees up guys inside."
The duo will have their hands full against Detroit's Eddie Drummond, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2004 despite missing the final month of the season with a shoulder injury. He became the second player in NFL history to return two kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns.
Drummond struggled in the season opener against the Packers. He averaged 2.0 yards on six punt returns and 14.5 yards on two kickoffs, but should test Ford and Davis.
"I don't think either one of us can be blocked by one person," Davis said. "We're both hungry, me and Carl are just starving, this is how we made the team so this is how we're trying to stay on the team. We have to perform."