Chase Ford, impressive last season, now battling for job

Chase Ford had more receiving yards than any Vikings tight end last season, but he's now in jeopardy of not making the team.

Ford, who caught 23 passes for 258 yards in 2014, could be the odd man out in a crowded position group. Starter Kyle Rudolph, blocking specialist Rhett Ellison and rookie MyCole Pruitt all figure to survive the final cut.

Ford has 34 catches for 391 yards the past two seasons with the Vikings. He had some strong outings last season when Rudolph missed seven games because of injury.

Ford at least didn't hurt himself in Saturday's 20-12 preseason victory over Oakland, catching five passes for 19 yards. He had a four-yard touchdown reception in the middle of the end zone, hanging onto the ball after being hit very hard.

"Any opportunity you have a chance to catch the ball, you need to catch it," Ford said. "You don't want to miss the ball. That's how you get cut."

NFL teams must cut down from 90 to 75 by Sept. 1, then to the regular-season limit of 53 by Sept. 5. Coach Mike Zimmer didn't want to speculate Monday on Ford's chances or on whether the Vikings could keep four tight ends.

But Zimmer did speak well of Ford's Saturday performance.

"Chase does a really good job in the passing game," Zimmer said. "He catches the ball well, he runs good routes and he's got to continue to maintain consistency."

Minnesota's three tight ends last year were Rudolph, Ellison and Ford. Pruitt, a fifth-round pick from Southern Illinois, now is a cinch to make the team.

Pruitt missed Saturday's game because of a sprained left ankle and sat out practice on Monday, but Zimmer said he is doing better.

"He's got the body to be a blocker. He's willing," Zimmer said or Pruitt. "I think he's going to continue to get better. Right now, I wouldn't say he's a killer blocker, but I think he'll be better than adequate when it's all said and done."

Ford acknowledges Pruitt's presence has put him in a battle to make the team. If Ford gets cut, he thinks he's at least done enough in his three NFL seasons to get another shot.

"That's up to the other (general managers) and coaches and stuff, but I feel like somebody will try to chance on me," he said.

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