Why former starting NFL LB made move to FB

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The conversation started before Nick Bellore even re-signed with the Detroit Lions earlier this offseason. When Detroit presented its plan for how it wanted to use the full-time linebacker/part-time fullback this season, it laid out an idea that was somewhat unexpected.

They wanted him to consider making the move to fullback more of a position switch than a moonlighting scenario. And on the face, it looks like a risky proposition. Not every team uses a fullback – and those that do have specific roles for them. Plus, like kicker and punter, a team isn’t going to keep more than one fullback -- a position one NFL GM called "a dinosaur" earlier this year.

They will, comparatively, keep a plethora of linebackers. Yet Bellore was intrigued by the proposition and ended up going for it, which is how an eight-year veteran who racked up 83 tackles in San Francisco two seasons ago went from defense to offense.

“I’d say nothing in my career has been easy,” Bellore said. “I had never played special teams before I got to the pros, either. And that has basically been my lifeblood for the last seven years so I’m really willing to do anything it takes to get on the field.

“Whether that’s offense, defense, special teams, whatever. It’s something I enjoyed doing last year and I didn’t think twice about not doing it this year when asked to because I think it can help the team. I think it’s something I can be good at. It’s mutually beneficial, I think.”

Bellore played a little bit of fullback when he was with the New York Jets and also had his role there last season in Detroit. Before that, he did it a little bit at Whitefish Bay High School in Wisconsin. He has two career catches for 24 yards and scored his first touchdown last year with Detroit.

Making the switch isn’t as drastic as it might seem at first glance. Bellore said the positions he has to be in – attacking – but instead of linebacker where he would sometimes have to move backward to read angles, here he’s moving forward to either run a route, carry the ball or block.

“I don’t really think they’re drastic position switches,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “You know, a lot of it is just football. A lot of it is technique and fundamentals. We have guys that play in different positions all the time, whether it’s offense or defense, and a lot of the fundamentals are the same.

“And I actually believe that Nick has played fullback before so I don’t think it’s that far of a stretch.”

He didn’t have to gain any weight for the position switch, didn’t change up his diet or his workout regimem, either. Didn’t even need to shift his number. The only thing that had to change was the side of the ball he was on and his mentality to how he’ll play, which is still difficult.

To help learn what he might be in for, he reached out to one of his friends, Anthony Sherman, who plays fullback for the Chiefs. He hasn’t picked his brain too much yet, but said he has tried to understand some of the intricacies of the position.

“It’s not the easiest transition,” Bellore said. “I’m learning it day by day, offensive terminology and all that stuff. So it takes time, but I’ve got great coaches and they are teaching me along the way.”

Bellore wouldn’t put a label on his role, either, saying he’s playing special teams, fullback and could play his original, natural position of linebacker, too. Although throughout all the practices that have been open to the media so far, Bellore has played fullback. His position even changed to fullback on the team’s official roster.

So it’s happening. Whether it’s a one-season switch or a move he’ll make for the remainder of his career is an unknown. So, too, is whether he’ll even make the roster since the Lions drafted fullback Nick Bawden in the seventh round (although Bawden was injured during practice Wednesday).

Bellore said the Lions told him they would give him the spring to learn the position, something that’s happening now, and see where things stood after. He said he’s not sure if he’ll be a two-way player during training camp – that right now he has been immersed at fullback.

“It’s something I embrace because it’s a challenge,” Bellore said. “I’ve played linebacker my whole life and it’s something I haven’t really done that I think I can excel at. It’s exciting to get the opportunity to do it.

“And if at the end of the day, they decide they want me to play linebacker or this or that, I’m just happy to be here.”