Because he was overlooked in the draft despite a productive career at LSU, running back Michael Ford wasn't sure what to expect when cuts came down Friday -- even after an impressive preseason.
But Ford did enough to wrest the No. 3 spot away from incumbent Armando Allen. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Ford rushed for 149 yards on 39 attempts (3.8-yard average) and 2 touchdowns and returned 11 kickoffs for 368 yards, a 33.5-yard average that included a 100-yard effort on which he was dragged down 4 yards short of the end zone. He also tied for the team lead with 8 catches for 65 yards.
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"We have two great running backs in Matt Forte and Bush, so I'm going to have to find my way on special teams if I'm going to make this team," Ford said after the preseason finale. "But I practiced hard and got in the games and played hard. If you gave it your all, at the end of the day, you're confident."
Allen, who returned to the field Thursday night after missing two games with a hamstring injury, finished the preseason with 51 yards on 13 carries (3.9-yard average) and 1 catch for 3 yards.
"I felt like I gave it all I got," Allen said. "But I'm probably one of my biggest critics. I feel like there are a lot of things I could have done better."
End of the line:
Safety Tom Nelson, a Hersey High School graduate, knows all about life on the bubble in the NFL, and he found out Friday morning that his had burst.
Undrafted out of Illinois State in 2009, Nelson made the Bengals' roster as a rookie and played three years in the league before he was signed by the Bears early this year. But the Bears came to camp with more than twice as many safeties as they would up keep, five with NFL experience, plus 2012 third-round pick Brandon Hardin.
Nelson got more reps in the final preseason game than he had in any of the first three. But they were all late in the game, although he responded with 4 tackles.
"I never feel like I get enough of an opportunity," Nelson said. "This was my fifth year in the NFL, and every single training camp I feel like I wish I'd get more. You can only control what they give you so you have to make the most of that. I'm a competitor, so, at the end of the day, I think I can play with anybody and compete with anybody."
In the end, the Bears decided they couldn't wait for Fendi Onobun to develop.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end didn't start playing football until after he played four years of basketball at Arizona. He flashed elite athleticism and speed for the position, but multiple drops and inconsistency doomed him.
"There's a light there," coach Marc Trestman said. "When that light switch goes on, he's got a chance to be a very good player."
Onobun caught 4 passes for 45 yards Thursday night. But he had 2 drops, including 1 that led to a pick-6, and he was called for holding twice, although 1 was declined.
The other shoe:
The Bears have until 5 p.m. Saturday to reduce their roster to 53.
It currently stands at 58, including safety Brandon Hardin (clavicle) and offensive tackle Cory Brandon (ankle/lower leg), who could wind up on injured reserve or with an injury settlement. Hardin is also eligible for the practice squad.
Beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, NFL teams can form their eight-man practice squads.
BEARS CURRENT ROSTER*
Quarterbacks (2): Jay Cutler, Josh McCown.
Running backs (3): Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Michael Ford.
Fullbacks (1): Tony Fiammetta.
Wide receivers (7): Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Joe Anderson, Eric Weems, Marquess Wilson, Terrence Toliver.
Tight ends (3): Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams.
Offensive linemen (10): Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Jonathan Scott, James Brown, Eben Britton, Taylor Boggs, Cory Brandon.
Defensive line (10): Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, Nate Collins, Zach Minter, Cheta Ozougwu, Corvey Irvin, Cornelius Washington.
Linebackers (7): Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, James Anderson, D.J. Williams, Khaseem Greene, Blake Costanzo, J.T. Thomas.
Safeties (5): Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters, Brandon Hardin.
Cornerbacks (6): Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis, C.J. Wilson.
PK: Robbie Gould.
P: Adam Podlesh.
LS: Patrick Mannelly.
RS: Devin Hester.
*Roster currently stands at 58, including OT Cory Brandon and S Brandon Hardin, who are injured. They are expected to be among the five remaining cuts by 5 p.m. Saturday.