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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Eager to prove doubters wrong, Dee Ford says 49ers ‘don’t understand what they’re about to get’

Mar 13, 2019 at 9:04 AM--

Dee Ford heads to the San Francisco 49ers eager to prove his doubters wrong. He's spent a good deal of his time with the Kansas City Chiefs trying to shake off the "bust" label that comes with a first-round pick who seemingly underperforms early in his career.

"For so long, I've been fighting the narrative … of [not] being a solid first-round draft pick," Ford told Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports shortly after being traded to San Francisco. "For so long, I've been fighting that narrative that I'm not that good, that I didn't qualify as [a good pick]."

The 49ers traded a second-round pick in next year's draft with the hopes that Ford can solve the team's pass rushing woes. San Francisco believes in him when some fans, and even coaches, in Kansas City did not.

One of those coaches was Gary Gibbs, who served as the Chiefs' linebackers coach until 2017. He was fired after that season.

Ford went on to have a monster season in 2018, racking up career-highs in combined tackles (55) and sacks (13). How good of a season was it? No other linebacker or edge defender produced more total pressures than Ford's 84, according to Pro Football Focus. His pass-rush grade of 91.1 was the best in the NFL among those position groups for players who took at least 20 percent of the snaps last season.

"Damn, and they gave up a second-round pick," Ford said after learning the terms of the 49ers-Chiefs trade. "They don't understand what they're about to get — I needed this, bro."

Ford compiled 10-or-more sacks in two of his last three seasons. He was limited to two through six games in 2017 after being slowed by a herniated disc in his back. Once again, he felt the doubt surface from fans even after an impressive campaign last season. Did some really think 2018 (and maybe 2016) was a fluke?

"It's crazy how the brain works," Ford said. "It's almost like, once you lie to somebody, they only remember you as a liar. So, once I was presented to them as a player that struggled, I was always that player that struggled."

The criticism got stronger after one particular play in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Ford was penalized for being offsides on defense at the end of the game. It was a call that invalidated a potentially game-sealing interception by cornerback Charvarius Ward that might have sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

Ford is ready for a fresh start and eager to prove himself to his new team and a new fan base. He expects to be even better in San Francisco than he was in Kansas City.

Ford showed up for training camp last offseason 10 pounds underweight due to his recovery from injury. This year, he plans to show up for the 49ers at a "clean" 245 pounds.

"Me knowing they believe in me ... talking to the GM, talking to the owner, talking to the head coach ... they couldn't wait [for me to get there]," Ford said.

One 49ers player who will benefit from Ford's presence on the defense is DeForest Buckner, who led the team with a career-high 12 sacks last season from the interior of the defensive line. He got used to facing double teams from opposing blockers but could have another monster year with Ford garnering some attention.

Opposing quarterbacks beware.

Paylor joined KNBR on Wednesday morning to share what Ford brings to the 49ers. You can listen to the entire interview below.

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