Veteran receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr.'s football longevity can largely be attributed to speed.
Even at 35, Ginn, who signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Chicago Bears, is a world-class speedster who can take the top off defenses.
"Don't let the age and the years fool you," Ginn said last week on a conference call.
"I ran a 4.22," he said of his best 40-yard dash. "I ran a 4.28. Then at my pro day [in 2007], I ran 4.3, 4.33 [seconds] or something like that, 4.35, still on an injured foot. I've been timed in between those times. That's how it's been."
Ginn is a sensible addition for Chicago. Coach Matt Nagy’s offense finished 2019 with the fewest number of offensive plays (44) that gained at least 20 yards from scrimmage, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Furthermore, Chicago tied for the fourth-fewest passing plays (39) with a gain of 20 or more yards. Ginn's specialty is stretching the field.
Since entering the NFL, Ginn has 20 touchdown receptions on passes that traveled 25 or more yards downfield, tied for fourth in the league over that 13-year span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Over the past two seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Ginn ranked ninth in air yards per target (16.02) among players with at least 25 targets. The only Bear to average even 12 air yards per target during the 2018 or 2019 seasons was former first-rounder Kevin White, who caught four passes for 92 yards in 2018.
"I can run. I can still run," Ginn said. "That's my attribute. I can run, I can catch, I can jump, I can do everything that I can possibly do to be a receiver. Just going in and knowing the knowledge and the game is slowing down a lot from first year to now. And it gets even slower as, you know, you get into this playbook and start understanding what role you really have. Just going out and really doing your role.
"... Once I got in and got that [Saints] system down, you know, with Drew Brees being the great guy that he is when it comes to the quarterback position, he put his touch into it with my feel. That's the same thing coming here. You come in and once you get to play, everybody adjusts to each other. That's what the first couple weeks of OTAs and what camp is really all about -- just getting in and getting a feel for each other and put the package together to make it work."
The Bears ideally plan to use Ginn -- guaranteed $887,500 in 2020 -- in a capacity similar to what he was used to in New Orleans.
"[My role] won't be different," Ginn said. "I bring speed. I bring that element of stretching the field, so I know I'll be helping that role. And then being able to catch things underneath and making my way within that role. With us having a wide variety of guys that can do a lot of awesome things, we just have to wait for Coach to put that thing together, and then we'll just figure it out."
One key difference between New Orleans and Chicago is continuity.
Saints coach Sean Payton and Brees have thrived together for 15 years. Nagy (entering Year 3) and the Bears -- without a true offseason program because of the coronavirus pandemic -- intend to hold an open quarterback competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles.
Unfortunately for Ginn, neither quarterback is particularly adept -- at least recently -- at the deep ball.
Since he joined the Bears in 2017, Trubisky has attempted 155 passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield, 14th in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Foles has attempted 44 of those deeper passes over the same span, good for 44th in the NFL.
Ginn can still get open, but can someone in Chicago deliver the football to him?
"Well, I know Trubisky as being the starter," Ginn said. "We're going to come in and play under him and do what we can to help lead this team to win ballgames. I know Nick Foles is a great quarterback behind him. MVP-caliber guy. Took his team to a Super Bowl.
"It's not really up to me. It's just up to me to go out and give those guys what I have to make them succeed, and whatever situation happens, that's what happens."