Perpetually looking to prove himself, Christian McCaffrey 'will do anything' in the NFL

Perpetually looking to prove himself, Christian McCaffrey 'will do anything' in the NFL

INDIANAPOLIS — Blink and you may miss Christian McCaffrey racing down the sidelines for a highlight-reel touchdown.

For the past three years, McCaffrey has made a living of making Pac-12 defenders look foolish on Saturdays. But for whatever reason, McCaffrey has had to fight to prove critics wrong since the day he strapped on football pads.

McCaffrey, the son of three-time Super Bowl champion and member of the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team Ed McCaffrey, took center stage at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon and was candid when talking about the outside perception of him as a running back at the next level.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder," McCaffrey said. "I feel like a lot of people don't give my credit for my skills and talents. That's just the way it is. But I also don't care too much. I don't feel like I'm crazy disrespected.

"I have a chip on my shoulder at all times. That's been my whole life. I'm constantly trying to prove myself."

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why McCaffrey, somebody who holds Stanford's single-season all purpose yardage record and was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2015, has felt disrespected when stacked up against the other top running backs in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

[MORE: Ryan Pace and John Fox unlikely to place win-now mandate on Bears' draft plans]

While he may not be as physically imposing as LSU's Leonard Fournette and doesn't have the measurables as a prototypical three-down NFL running back, McCaffrey sees his versatility as something that can separate himself from other backs.

"Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball, but if I move out to the slot I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver not just a running back," McCaffrey said. "I try to pride myself in route-running and catching, and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.

"Anytime I can get the ball in my hands I feel like I can do something dangerous and it's really why I love the return game. There's so much space in front of you. It's just another opportunity to make a play."

With his unique skillset, there's no question that McCaffrey will be an asset to any team that drafts him in April.

Does he have a preference?

"I'd be happy to play for anybody."

And if the whole football thing doesn't work out for McCaffrey, he's got a backup plan.

"I ordered a harmonica on Amazon about $15 and just started messing around with it."

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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