Dee Ford walked into the media room at the Chiefs practice facility Monday afternoon, in the midst of his first sentence before a question had even been issued.
“Today is the perfect day to talk to me,” he said. “I’m spilling out everything.”
It was light-hearted in nature, a comment not meant to be taken seriously. But on a day in which several of his teammates stuck to the script — chronicling their offseason regimens, workouts, weight loss and the like — Ford deviated. He was more simply happy to be here.
His 2017 season was cut short by a lingering back injury that landed him on injured reserve after only six appearances and eventually required offseason surgery. On Monday, as the outside linebacker sets to embark on a contract season, he detailed just how cumbersome the back had become.
“Imagine your leg randomly going numb,” Ford said. “That’s just what it was. And then when the feeling came back, it was pain.”
Ford opted for surgery, “the best thing” he could have chosen, he says now, adding that his body is without residual effects a month before organized team activities are scheduled to begin. He was vague about his planned participation for OTAs, but he’s expected to be fully healthy by training camp.
“I feel excellent with this thing,” Ford said. “You wanna time it right, so we’re taking it week by week. I’ll go back and see my doctor soon.”
That description of his health — excellent — would not have been apt at any point last season.
After a breakout 2016 campaign that included 10 sacks, he recorded just two in six games in 2017. He was hindered by the injury from the get-go. It materialized in the opening weeks of the season, he said Monday, but after wins against New England and Philadelphia, Ford decided he didn’t want to miss out on what looked to have the potential of a special season.
A decision based more on hope than reality only worsened his back. He sat out two games, hoping it would heal. A return squashed that hope.
“It was frustrating, but it’s a lesson learned,” he said. “Players have a tendency to try to ride the wheels until they fall off. It really don’t work that way.”
The Chiefs missed his presence. They were 24th in the NFL with 31 sacks. Ford talked Monday of "leaving your teammates hanging" and then of his eagerness to return to the field and make an impact.
There’s some added motivation in his fifth NFL season. Ford is in the final year of his contract, his option triggered because of the injury. He will make $8.7 million for 2018. The future beyond that will be dependent on his return to health.
“The thing that you do is you come back better than ever,” Ford said. “That’s pretty much the only way you handle it."