Vikings tight end Ford making most of his time on active roster

The patient journeyman has made several key catches.

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Vikings tight end Chase Ford, left, fended off Philadelphia free safety Patrick Chung to set up a touchdown in the fourth quarter on Dec. 15.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Vikings tight end Chase Ford grew up in a small southeast Texas town. His favorite Christmas present shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Corrigan native received a .410 shotgun when he was 6 years old. Ford spent the day shooting cans. Later in his life, he downed his first deer with that gun.

“Brings back memories,” Ford said with a chuckle.

He rarely finds enough time to enjoy one of his favorite hobbies lately, which has actually been a good thing. Ford bounced around on three practice squads before making his first appearance on an active roster this season, and he is hoping Sunday’s season finale against the Lions won’t be his last.

Ford hasn’t started, but he has appeared in eight games, making six receptions for 90 yards. With Rhett Ellison injured in Week 8, Ford was signed to the active roster and activated against the Packers. He didn’t play, got cut and was signed back to the practice squad.

An eventful first taste of an NFL Sunday in pads.

“They always say you got to be prepared to leave when you come into this game,” Ford said. “That’s just the mindset I hold.”

Ellison was scratched again, so Ford was brought back up the next week. This time he would get a chance to play against his favorite childhood team, the Cowboys. He spent a week on Dallas’ practice squad after he was dropped from the Eagles’ practice squad.

The Vikings trailed Dallas 20-17 with less than six minutes in the fourth when Adrian Peterson scored a go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard run. He had four defenders surrounding him after picking up a first down on fourth and inches and nearly stumbled short of the goal line, but Ford kept Peterson on his feet and pushed him in.

“I blocked my guy but he kind of got off,” said Ford, who was initially brought in as a pass-receiving tight end but has improved his blocking during the season. “I was running to try and make sure he didn’t make the play and it fell in my lap, literally.”

Two of Ford’s six catches came two weeks ago in a victory over the Eagles, with one changing the outcome of the game — a 37-yard connection from Matt Cassel on third-and-14 early in the fourth quarter after the Eagles had pulled to within 27-22.

“Just to think, we came out of training camp and we weren’t even sure that he would make our football team and ends up on the practice squad,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “… He is a hard-working guy and he has come up with some big plays for us. Evidenced by the third-and-14 we had [against the Eagles], Hard work does pay off.”

He made his previous catch on the team’s first drive and said he felt before the play he was ready to grab another pass and move the sticks. Ford eluded a tackle and stiff-armed a defender before he was wrestled 5 yards short of his first career touchdown.

“I got to finish that, right?” Ford said. “I came pretty close to scoring. But we scored a touchdown. If we didn’t score a touchdown my feelings probably would’ve been hurt.”

On Sunday, Ford will have one final chance this season to grab his first career touchdown pass. The franchise will say goodbye to the Metrodome, in one of three games Sunday without any playoff implications. But for Ford, who is signed through 2014, he is not sure what will happen to him in the offseason.

The Vikings have three tight ends, with Kyle Rudolph (foot) and John Carlson (concussion) on injured reserve, along with Ellison. Carlson’s health concerns could open up a roster spot for Ford, but he is content with whatever outcome occurs.

“If Minnesota feels that they’re good with the three tight ends they’ve got now and say they don’t want to keep me on the active roster, that’s fine because I’ve got tape for other teams to see that so other teams can pick me up,” Ford said.

Ford plans to make a trip back home in the offseason to pick up his hobby again. While he chases ducks and deer with his father and uncle, Ford hopes he won’t have to hunt for a job in the spring. He is prepared to return for organized team activities and build off the work he has put in just to make the active roster.

“You grow up playing football in the back yard and being from a small Texas town, you don’t make it out of there,” Ford said. “You’re living out your childhood dream. It really motivates you to not give up, and play hard every game.”

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