As training camp winds down, Rudy Ford looks to finish strong. Hard-hitting veteran is back working with the No. 1 defense
Aug 25, 2023 at 09:00- Wes Hodkiewicz
GREEN BAY – The competition for the starting safety spot in the Packers' secondary is entering the home stretch.
As Green Bay prepares to welcome the Seattle Seahawks for Saturday's preseason finale, Rudy Ford is back working alongside Darnell Savage in the Packers' starting back end.
It's where the seventh-year safety opened training camp last month before the Packers started rotating in veterans Jonathan Owens and Tarvarius Moore, and rookie seventh-round pick Anthony Johnson Jr., next to Savage.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur didn't make any official roster declarations on Thursday but told reporters before practice that "we've got a pretty good indication" of who'll start at safety with Savage.
When asked about Ford's reinsertion into the starting lineup, LaFleur complimented the 28-year-old safety for his physicality and communication throughout training camp. "He's done a really nice job," LaFleur said. "Communication is a big part of that position, making sure everybody's on the same page, and I think he's handled that pretty well. Hopefully, he can … go out there and compete in the game at a high level."
A highly touted special-teams player with 33 career coverage tackles, Ford signed with Green Bay last September with hopes of also being a contributor on defense.
Ford succeeded. His six starts matched his career total from his first five seasons combined, while his 442 defensive snaps established a new career high.
Known for his hard-hitting style, Ford finished with 40 tackles and a career-high three interceptions in 17 games. He had a career day during a four-tackle, two-INT performance in the Packers' 31-28 victory over Dallas last November.
The sample size was promising enough for the Packers to re-sign Ford in March, making him the leading candidate to replace departing veteran Adrian Amos, who eventually signed with the New York Jets. "My goal is to play like I'm a starter," Ford said. "I don't control the rotation and stuff like that, but as far as I'm when I'm in there, I just try to play my best, give my best to the team, the guys that I'm out there with, try to communicate."
The safety rotation has required patience this summer, but Ford hasn't let it deter him from his goals. Whether he's lined up with the No. 1 defense or the third-team unit, the 6-foot, 210-pound safety has tried to make every rep count.
Ford seems to be hitting his stride, too. Since returning to the starting unit during Saturday's preseason game against New England, Ford has put together some of his best outings of camp.
He had two tackles (one for loss) last Saturday against the Patriots and a run fit of Ezekiel Elliott during the joint practices that brought a smile to the face of cornerback Jaire Alexander.
"Rudy brings a different element. He's probably one of those more physical safeties right now honestly," Alexander said. "It's always good to see a safety come up and putting his pads on somebody even in thud periods. I like Rudy. He's super athletic, too." Ford played alongside Amos more than he did Savage last year but feels he's "flowing" with the former first-round pick this summer. Throughout the offseason, the two safeties have gotten used to playing off one another and relaying calls.
This Saturday will be another important test, as the Packers expect to play most of their offensive and defensive starters early on against the Seahawks. It also could go a long way in helping Green Bay set its depth chart for the regular-season opener against Chicago in 2½ weeks.
Asked on Thursday about when he'd like to see the safety competition solidify itself, LaFleur joked "yesterday" before explaining that situation could remain fluid throughout the year depending on how players perform. Ford is focused on today and controlling what's controllable. After making his presence felt late last season, the veteran safety believes he can help the Packers' defense take the next step.
It comes down to one question: "How can I execute the play and help our team?"
"I feel like I've proved what I've always been capable of doing," Ford said. "What I put out there, I feel like that speaks and I feel like it'll help out tremendously; the body of work I do try to put out and help our team, I feel that speaks volumes. That's the only thing I can control."
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