LAKE FOREST – Shaun Draughn hopes to earn a backup job with the Bears – not just so he can quit living out of a suitcase, but so he has the chance to run behind the team's ascending offensive line.
Draughn, 26, signed a one-year deal with the Bears in April – already the journeyman running back’s fifth NFL team as he prepares to enter his fourth season.
After signing with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina in 2011, Draughn earned his first spot on a 53-man roster late in his rookie season with the Chiefs. He had 83 touches for 391 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns as the third-stringer in Kansas City’s fifth-ranked rushing attack in 2012, before spending time with the Ravens and Colts last season. It’s his fifth NFL locker room, but his first offensive line with this kind of cohesion.
“The O-line, they’re the tightest I’ve ever seen, and you can tell the way they play – they’re just nasty,” said Draughn, one of the last Bears to leave the practice field after the team's second open organized team activity Tuesday.
Despite being released by the Chiefs before the start of the 2013 season, Draughn referenced his brief stint with Andy Reid as a boon to prepare him for his opportunity with the Bears. Additionally, Draughn’s overall NFL pedigree – he’s the only back on the Bears' roster other than Matt Forte with a regular-season carry – is part of what attracted general manager Phil Emery to him.
Draughn (6-foot, 205 pounds) learned “the same kind of concepts” between the West Coast systems of Reid and Bears coach Marc Trestman. It has allowed him to focus in other areas, ones in which the Bears are different.
“Trying to figure out where the receivers align,” Draughn said. “We definitely do a lot more empty (backfield) than other teams I’ve been with – especially early on. They put an emphasis on it, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to run quite a bit of it.”
Draughn also understands the emphasis Trestman places on strong pass blocking, regardless of where the backs are aligned. “I definitely like to pass protect,” Draughn said. “Whenever you can get back at a man that hit you the play before, it’s a bonus. I think pass blocking is really a mentality: not letting that man across from you beat you.”
At the time of Draughn’s signing, the Bears’ running back room wasn’t as crowded. Then they spent a third-round pick on Ka’Deem Carey and signed undrafted free-agents Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry.
“I can’t get upset, allow it to mess my focus up – it will decrease my chances of making the team because I’ll be thinking of that a little more,” he said, acknowledging that the ebbs and flows have become a bit easier as he has matured.
Forte is coming off both the best – and arguably most taxing – season of his six-year NFL career. It was the fourth time he has started all 16 games, thus the mileage is beginning to build on the Bears' talented multidimensional back. One running back job is almost assuredly reserved for Carey. That leaves four former or current undrafted players – Draughn, Lynch, Perry and Michael Ford – vying for one highly coveted spot.
“My mentality as a player is just try and work hard,” he said. “That’s how I’ve stayed in the league so long after not being drafted; working hard will keep me here.”