Elijah Holyfield puts fumble behind him, scores twice in NFL debut

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CHICAGO – It wasn’t the test Elijah Holyfield wanted, but it’s the one he got on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

The undrafted rookie running back lost a fumble on his third touch in the NFL. Bears linebacker Josh Woods made a great hit and the ball popped out. It was Holyfield’s first lost fumble since his sophomore year at Georgia.

“It’s not something that happens often,” Holyfield said, shaking his head.

OK, so you fumbled in your first game as a pro. It happened. Can’t be undone. Now what?

“The coaches want to see what you do when something bad happens,” Holyfield said. “Bad things will happen in football. It’s how you bounce back.”

And that’s what Holyfield did.

“I thought he rebounded very strongly,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He came back and handled the situation very well. He’s young, he’s learning and he’ll continue to get better.”

Holyfield scored Carolina’s first touchdown of the preseason when he hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from fellow rookie Will Grier early in the third quarter.

“When I heard the play and I was peeking, I was like, ‘Ah, I think I might get it,’” Holyfield said. “It was very exciting. No better person than Will to throw it to me.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Holyfield bounced outside and made a couple defenders miss for an 11-yard touchdown run.

He showed good speed to gain the edge, which is something people doubted he could do at this level after his much-maligned 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

“I’ve gotten the corner before in college. I ran bad in Indy and got slow, I guess,” Holyfield joked. “But I just play my game, when I see an opening I run to it.”

With rookie running back Jordan Scarlett sitting out with a back injury, Holyfield got a lot of work and he took advantage. Accounting for both of your team's touchdowns is a nice way to get started for an undrafted rookie battling to earn a roster spot.

“Other than the fumble,” Holyfield said, “then I’d be really happy.”

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