Ford on 'pitch count,' disputes being 'part-time' player originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SANTA CLARA -- Dee Ford might open this season on a “pitch count,” but the 49ers’ veteran edge rusher does not want that to be confused for him being labeled as a part-time player.
“This is a defensive line with our style of play, there’s really no starter,” Ford said as the 49ers begin preparations to face the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the regular season on Sunday.
Ford was limited to just one game last season before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. His return this season was in question up until recent weeks, when his condition improved enough to allow him to practice daily in pads.
Now, Ford figures to be a main component of the 49ers’ defensive line rotation as a situational pass-rusher -- regardless of how many snaps he plays.
“Like with any injury, we’re going to start on a pitch count,” Ford said. “That’s standard for any injury. But my role is to do what they brought me here to do, make big plays. So that’s what I’m going to do.”
The 49ers acquired Ford in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019. Coming off a career-high 13 sacks in Kansas City, Ford battled knee and hamstring issues in 2019 but still managed 6.5 sacks in 11 games.
Ford joins a group of 49ers edge rushers in nickel situations that includes Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam and Arden Key. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has the luxury of slowly working Ford back into the mix.
“You go about it each play, each game,” Ford said. “We got packages and guys have roles. Whatever your role calls for that game, that week, maybe even that year, that’s what you go out and do.
"As far as plays, it all amounts on the game. You could be out there 30 plays, 40 plays, the play count will always fluctuate.”