By Adam Hoge-
LAKE FOREST (CBS) — Jordan Lynch has three and a half months to turn himself into an NFL special teamer.
The Bears may have ideas on how to work the quarterback-turned-running back into the offense, but those ideas won’t matter if Lynch can’t contribute on special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis’ unit.
“It’s going to have to help him make the team,” DeCamillis said Saturday after the Bears’ second rookie minicamp practice. “The head coach just got up here and talked about the backup running back (job), but really we carried four running backs into the game last year. I’m not talking about the (53-man roster). I’m talking about the 46-man roster, which is really the thing that I’m most concerned with because those are the guys who play in the game, right?”
DeCamillis was including fullback Tony Fiammetta in that group of four running backs the Bears activated for the majority of last season. Third-string running back Michael Ford was active in 12 of 16 games because he showed an ability to contribute on special teams.
And that’s why it’s not hard to see that the numbers are already working against Lynch, the Heisman Trophy finalist from Northern Illinois who was picked up by the Bears as an undrafted free agent. He’s either going to have to beat out Ford or prove that he’s worthy enough for the Bears to keep four true running backs in addition to Fiammetta.
That’s not an easy task when you spent the last eight years playing quarterback.
“I can’t even mention the last time I threw a tackle or anything like that, but we’re working on the fundamentals of tackling,” Lynch said Saturday. “I’m taking individual (drills) really serious and just trying to learn the technique and the proper way to hit.”
He’s also working on his blocking skills, something that he’ll need to perfect both on special teams and as a running back.
“We’ve taken guys over the years who didn’t want to block and didn’t have any idea how, to wanting to block and knowing how,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “(Lynch) wants to, so we have 50 percent of it done. Now we just got to teach him.”
So how do you take a guy like Lynch — with little to no experience on special teams — and teach him how to block and tackle?
“You work on it like we did today,” DeCamillis said. “We did a lot of drill work for those guys. Everything we tried to do was some tackling drills.”
The problem is, there’s no live hitting in minicamp. In fact, Lynch won’t even put the pads on until training camp.
“He’s a very willing, good athlete, which, that’s the first part of it. He’s able to do it,” DeCamillis said. “But they’re going to have to do it in the preseason. He’s got to get some reps in the preseason and see if he can do it. Hopefully we’ll have a good decision to make on him. Hopefully there’s a few guys that show up there.”
Lynch’s role on special teams appears to be wide open, mainly because the Bears are trying to see what he can handle. But he’ll get looks on coverage teams and was even returning a few punts after practice Saturday.
Lynch admitted that special teams are “out of my comfort zone” but he’s proven throughout his high school and college career that he’s a quick learner, something Trestman has already picked up on.
“I’m impressed, certainly, with his desire to learn, to pick this thing up,” the head coach said. “He’s in the meetings, he’s sitting in the front row. He must still think he’s a quarterback in that regard.”
Trestman called Friday “first impression day” and Lynch isn’t having a problem making a good first impression this weekend.
“Every time I’m out there I’m trying to make everything count,” Lynch said. “I’m trying to hustle, never walking. Always trying to be the first one doing everything. I feel like that’s one way I can stand out.”
Now the Bears just need to figure out if he can play football at a high enough level.
“I consider myself an athlete and willing to do anything to make this team,” Lynch said.
Again, he’s got three and half months to do so.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.