Dee Ford isn’t worried about redemption in the Super Bowl

San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl

Dee Ford wore the goat horns last year for the Kansas City Chiefs. One year and a trade later, Ford is now trying to beat his former team in Super Bowl LIV.

MIAMI — How did it feel to line up in the neutral zone?

That question, in many forms, has been lobbed at Dee Ford all week.

Ford, 28, has been gracious. He’s acknowledged the pain. He’s also acknowledged the play is done with. It’s history.

What isn’t history is Ford being in the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers. Only one year from being a few inches away from the same destination as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, the edge rusher now sees his former team after being traded away this offseason for a second-round pick.

Still, Ford is appreciative of all that’s happened. He’s embraced his climb to this point, through the phenomenal and painful.

“This journey has been magnificent, actually,” Ford said. “Besides the fact I had some unlucky injuries that weren’t serious but serious enough to hinder my performance. …But other than that this has been a magnificent year for me. I’m just trying to soak it all in and take advantage of the opportunity.”

Despite missing five games with hamstring and knee injuries, Ford contributed 6.5 sacks to San Francisco’s 48 during the regular season. This while being on a proverbial pitch count, never playing more than 58 percent of the defense’s snaps in a given game. In the playoffs, Ford has been terrific, collecting a sack and two quarterback hits in wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.

While Ford goes a bit unheralded on his defensive line next to stars Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, he gives San Francisco a lethal weapon off the edge. He’s also been a huge positive in the locker room for a trio of studs all on their rookie contracts.

“It’s been great to play alongside Dee,” Armstead said. “He brings veteran leadership even though this is only his sixth year. He’s one of the eldest on the (defensive) line. Of course coming from Kansas City they had a lot of success there, finding ways to win. He’s played in countless playoff games, so it’s been great to have that leadership. From a football standpoint, he brings a lot. He’s an extreme talent, pass-rusher, stopping the run, he can do it all. When I line up and we’re rushing together, he opens up a lot of things for me when people have to put attention towards him.”

After acquiring Ford from the Chiefs on March 12, 49ers general manager John Lynch signed the Pro Bowler to a five-year, $85 million deal. However, the structure basically has Ford playing a series of one-year pacts. While Ford has been hampered at times in 2019, his skill set has proved vital for San Francisco.

Talking to the team throughout Super Bowl week, the same word keeps coming up. Speed.

While Bosa, Buckner and Armstead are all uniquely athletic and quick off the ball, Ford has a rare combination of size and speed around the corner. It’s something which has made the others around him better.

“Dee has been phenomenal, man,” Buckner said. “Having him rushing off the edge, it’s a different type of speed. When you have offensive linemen worrying and panicking about him, it’s beneficial for the rest of the guys on the line, especially Nick (Bosa) on the opposite end. They have to pick and choose who to slide the protection to or double inside. He’s just a big threat to have on the edge.”

“He brings a lot of speed to that edge,” said defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He unlocks the offensive line in terms of creating space for the guys inside because of the speed he has on the edges. His leadership and all that stuff has been exceptional.”

Now, Ford has his chance to shine on the biggest stage American sports has to offer. More than 100 million people will watch the Chiefs and 49ers tangle.

For Ford, the culmination of this year’s journey comes Sunday against his old team.

He hopes it’s magnificent.

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