NAPA -- Jacoby Ford is already one of the most dynamic kickoff return men in the NFL, as his team-record four returns for touchdowns, in 24 career games, attests.Now, he's looking to add punt-return duties to his resume. Just don't ask him if he sees himself in a Devin Hester-type role with the Raiders."I can see a Jacoby Ford role," he said this week. "I can definitely see my own role when I come in. Im definitely excited about doing punt returns. Thats something Ive been wanting to do for a long time now. But since Ive been here, I just wasnt allowed to. Now that Im going to definitely get the opportunity to do it, Im going to make the best of the opportunity and definitely try to score or just set the offense up to have a short field."In college, Ford returned 49 punts for 494 yards and two touchdowns at Clemson.With the Raiders, Ford will be playing for his third different head coach in as many years under Dennis Allen, having suited up for Tom Cable as a rookie and Hue Jackson last season.Ford was a fourth-round revelation as a rookie, and not just as a kick returner. He also proved to be a game-changer against Kansas City on Nov. 7, 2010, when he complied 306 all-purpose yards, returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown and caught passes that set up game-tying and game-winning field goals.But injuries -- he suffered a broken hand in training camp, strained a hamstring in the season opener and sprained a foot in Week 10 -- limited him to just eight games last season. Plus, the quarterback in whose wedding he was supposed to stand up in was lost to injury in the sixth game and after Jason Campbell was no longer a factor, Ford seemed to have a hard time clicking with Carson Palmer.Neither health nor chemistry seem to be an issue now."Jacoby and I are really coming together," Palmer said. "It's hard when we have goal-line days and we've done some short-yardage the last couple practices. But when we were doing third downs and putting in the Red Zone a couple days, we were really clicking and firing on all cylinders. Just got to keep grinding, keep going. We're not where we want to be yet but we're coming along."Ford agreed."Just getting that chemistry with Carson going is definitely good," Ford said. "You go out there every day and you work with him. Just to have that camaraderie and that relationship with him makes it easy whenever we do get to the game."Weve definitely been on the same page a lot lately. Weve just kind of taken what we see from the practice film and just bringing it out here to the practice field and correcting any mistakes that we do have. Just kind of being in the right spot for him, especially down in the red zone, because hes just taught to cut it loose. Hes definitely going on trust."And that's exactly what the new regime seems to have in Ford. Especially with him being at the top of the depth chart for both return duties as well as taking first-team offensive snaps at receiver with Denarius Moore nursing a sore hamstring."They just wanted me to do the kickoffs and just kind of wait, kind of work me in," Ford said of previous coaching staffs. "The thing is, they didnt want to burn me out. Thats what our old special teams coach said. Just kind of stuck with kick return at first."Of course, the two returns are completely different."With the kickoff return, you dont have to worry about catching and moving right away (and) you can kind of set up your blocks," Ford said. "But punt return, everything happens a lot faster because you've got to get those good blocks on the outside and the good blocks on the inside, and if somebody does get loose, youre going to have to shake one guy and make him miss. You just have to be prepared for those bullets coming down at you."
Ford adding punt-return duties to job description
August 10, 2012, 4:54 pm