LAKE FOREST – Under new head coach Matt Eberflus, the Bears are going to be tough again.
After four years of Matt Nagy’s pass-happy imitation of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bears are going back to the ground game. Nothing shows that more than the addition of a fullback over the offseason.
Free-agent signee Khari Blasingame comes to Chicago after three seasons with Tennessee as the lead blocker for All-Pro running back Derrick Henry. The Bears signed Blasingame to a one-year contract in March. At 6-foot, 233 pounds, Blasingame’s size stands out when standing next to the running backs.
In today’s NFL, the fullback feels like something out of a history book. But as more teams – such as the Bears – adapt the wide zone run scheme made so popular by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and others, the fullback is making a comeback.
“I ain’t had no problem with it being old school,” Blasingame said Sunday after practice. “I’m cool with that.”
The now 26-year-old knew that the fullback position might be in his future when he was coming out of Vanderbilt. He has played all over the field during his career. Coming out of high school in Alabama, he played safety. At Vanderbilt he was switched to linebacker and eventually to running back.
His size didn’t lend itself to running back at the NFL level. He went undrafted in 2019 and spent his first NFL season on the Vikings’ and Titans’ practice squads.
“Adaptability has always been something to help me get on the field,” Blasingame said. “Moving to fullback was just another way to adapt and get on the field and provide value and keep playing football as long as I can.”
Blasingame has shown an ability to catch tough passes during training camp. He is not, however, likely to have the ball in his hands much. In three seasons with
Tennessee, he appeared in 32 regular-season games and touched the ball a total of 13 times. He joked Sunday that he touched the ball enough in college.
No, he’s here to create holes and lead the way for David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.
“[The fullback] creates more gaps in the running game when you have that lead back in there, and you certainly have to be mindful of that defensively,” Eberflus said.
The Bears haven’t had a fullback since Michael Burton played the position in 2018. Burton played a lot in 2017 under former coach John Fox, then saw his usage drop significantly during Matt Nagy’s first season in 2018.
Nagy abandoned the position altogether over the following three seasons. Most times that the Bears lined up in a formation with a fullback, Nagy’s offense used a tight end in that spot.
Having a true fullback should make offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s run-blocking scheme far more effective.
“There’s a lot of fullbacks around the league, but not a lot of teams utilize it heavily,” Blasingame said. “So I definitely take pride in being [in] position to prove I can be relied on to make plays for the offense and help us run the ball.”
Adams speaks: Linebacker Matthew Adams spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest over the summer. Adams was charged with misdemeanor firearm possession in June.
Police said they recovered a weapon during a search of his vehicle in downtown Chicago. He also was cited for possessing a high-capacity magazine within the city limits and metal-piercing bullets, a municipal code violation.
On Sunday, Adams said his gun was registered in Texas. He indicated that he didn’t know the Illinois laws after moving to the state.
“That hitting the social media, and being a new person on the team, that’s a major setback to what I’m trying to bring to the team,” Adams said.
Adams said he spoke privately with general manager Ryan Poles, and Poles challenged him “to cover that ground that we lost.”
Taking attendance: Cornerback Kindle Vildor returned to the practice field Sunday for the first time in several days.
Receiver N’Keal Harry, who suffered an ankle injury Saturday, was not present Sunday. His status is unclear.
Other absences Sunday included cornerback Kyler Gordon, receiver Velus Jones Jr., receiver Byron Pringle, defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, cornerback Duke Shelley, cornerback Tavon Young, receiver Dante Pettis and cornerback Noah Dawkins.
Linebacker Roquan Smith remains out as well.
Tackle Teven Jenkins practiced for the second day in a row. He played right tackle in team drills but did not take any reps with the first-team offense.
Transactions: The Bears waived linebacker C.J. Avery on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team signed free-agent linebacker Javin White.
The Jets waived White about a week ago. The 25-year-old linebacker out of UNLV previously played for the Las Vegas Raiders. He has appeared in six career NFL games.