Dee Ford continues to prove all the doubters wrong, including the 49ers.
The seven-year NFL veteran has played in only 12 of the 49ers' previous 32 regular season games since the team acquired him before the 2019 season.
Two very serious injuries to his back and spine have caused Ford to miss significant time. Just when it seemed as if his tenure with the 49ers could have been over this past offseason, the team restructured his contract and held out hope that the former First-Team All-Pro defensive end could add much-needed depth to the defensive line this season.
49ers general manager John Lynch remained positive in regards to Ford's chances of finally getting healthy, but admitted that he and the team had their fair share of doubts.
“I tend to be a positive guy, sometimes it bothers Kyle [Shanahan] how optimistic I am," Lynch said on Tim Kawakami's "The TK Show" this week. "(I would say) ‘he’s going to be great,’ he’s going to be fine.’ ”
“I even (had my doubts about) Dee [Ford] last season. Not disappointed in him, he just had a situation where it was a moving target, and that happens with (spinal injuries)."
Preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best, the 49ers' patience with the 30-year-old might actually pay off.
"Believe me, there were times where we didn’t think this would work out," Lynch said. It’s almost like a bonus, a cherry-on-top that he’s been able to be out here."
Ford has been practicing rather consistently now, but probably won't see a single down of preseason action. From now until the 49ers' Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions, what will the team need to see out of Ford before returning to the field for the first time since last season's opener?
"He still has to go do it, but there’s a good plan to train him up," Lynch added. "You can’t just show up on Sunday in this league, that’s just never worked. You have to practice, and you have to build a mountain of endurance to be able to play at a high level, and Dee’s gotta increase that."
If healthy enough to play, the 49ers' defensive line will receive a huge shot in the arm. Opposite Nick Bosa in 2019, the two feasted on opposing quarterbacks throughout the first half of the season.
“Each day I look out there and he’s out there and that makes me happy," Lynch said. "Any time that Dee’s been here for us we’re a better team when he’s out there."
There are still a few weeks remaining until the 49ers have to make a decision on Ford's availability. Until then, a continuous increase in his endurance will only benefit Ford's chances of playing in Detroit.
"He’s got great hand-eye coordination, a great ability to turn the edge, and he’s a powerful guy," Lynch said. "So what I'm seeing is that guy, and now we just gotta make those glimpses a little bit longer.”