Bears

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."

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.