Camp Notebook: Donald Stephenson gets early test

Posted Jul 29, 2012

Chiefs Training Camp Notebook Presented by Heartland Health

St. Joseph – The first day of pads presented a big opportunity, and a big task, for rookie offensive lineman Donald Stephenson.

Starting left tackle Branden Albert was ineligible to participate in Sunday’s full-padded practice because of an acclimation clause in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, so Albert’s starting reps went to Kansas City’s third-round draft pick.

“(Albert) came a day late to training camp he needs a three-day acclimation period and that is not over until tomorrow,” head coach Romeo Crennel explained prior to Sunday’s practice. “He will be in pads tomorrow, but not today.”

So there was Stephenson, protecting Matt Cassel’s blind side while Albert worked with strength and conditioning coaches on a side field. Tempo increased, contact escalated and Pro Bowl pass rusher Tamba Hali consistently challenged the rookie at the line of scrimmage.

Stephenson definitely represented a rookie being thrown into the fire.

“It was crazy,” said Stephenson. “I was a big fan of Tamba before I came here and going against him is going to make me a lot better. He’s a heck of a player and you have to be alert on every snap, know what you’re doing and do it with perfect technique or he’ll make you look bad.”

Stephenson grew up a Chiefs fan as he worked his way up the Kansas City high school ranks to earn a scholarship at Oklahoma. His one-on-one battles with Hali saw the veteran get into the backfield several times, but Stephenson recorded his fair share of stalemates as well.

“I really had to pick up my pace and get with it because there were a lot of guys flying around,” Stephenson said. “It was the first day of pads and the defense was excited about that and we were too. So we had a lot of hats flying around out there today.”

Veteran Tony Ugoh, signed as a free agent on July 26th, worked behind Stephenson as he continues to get acquainted with the Chiefs playbook. Second-year prospect David Mims worked with the second-team offense opposite Ugoh.

Stephenson knows practices like these are important opportunities to show his on-field development. First-team reps come at a premium with a pair of established starters on the bookends of Kansas City’s offensive line.

“Right now I’m focused on getting myself better,” Stephenson said. “If down the road I’m good enough to be put into a (playing) situation, I’ll gladly take it. But right now I’m focused on being a rookie and that’s a tough enough job.”

Bad News for McCarthy

It didn’t look good when reserve safety Kyle McCarthy was carted off the field midway through Saturday’s practice. On Sunday, Romeo Crennel confirmed what most who witnessed McCarthy’s exit were anticipating.

“His knee doesn’t look good,” Crennel said. “We’ll have to let the swelling go down and see where it leads us, but it’s one of those things in football that happens and that you have to deal with.”

McCarthy suffered the injury on the sidelines when a player rolled into his knee. Trainers helped him into a cart and took him into the locker room for further testing. The swelling around McCarthy’s knee was noticeable as he exited the practice field, prompting polite applause from many fans sitting behind the south end zone.

“He is a young man who has been working hard, a smart guy who had picked up the defense,” Crennel said. “But like I said, it doesn’t look good for him.

McCarthy signed with the Chiefs in February after spending his first two NFL seasons with the Broncos. He saw action in 12 games for Denver from 2010-11, appearing primarily on special teams.

In addition to absence of McCarthy and Albert, other players missing Sunday’s practice included defensive back Jacques Reeves (personal) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (contract). Rookie fullback Taylor Gentry was at practice, but did not participate in drills.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston returned to practice after missing yesterday’s session and Sunday morning’s walkthrough with a stomach illness.

Take Five: Quick-Hitters from Sunday’s Practice

1) Dontari Poe’s first contact came against Lucas Patterson in o-line/d-line drills matching nose tackles head-up over center with two guards providing support. Most noticeable was Poe’s impressive upper-body strength while occupying multiple blockers.

2) Derrick Johnson notched the first tackle of camp as he chased down running back Shaun Draughn on a stretch play off right tackle. Johnson set a franchise single-season tackle record last season with 179 stops according to coach’s film.

3) Numerous players visited the training tent to cool off from the triple-digit heat in St. Joe. Most returned to the field after a brief cool-down period.

4) Brandon Flowers recorded the first interception of training camp when he jumped a Brady Quinn pass intended for rookie Devon Wylie. Flowers drew a loud crowd reaction as he raced for to the end zone in 7-on-7 work. Flowers’ interception was impressive, though Javier Arenas bested the effort with a diving INT as Matt Cassel tried to hit Dexter McCluster on a shallow out.

5) Rodney Hudson appeared to have a nice day in one-on-one competition between the offensive and defensive line. On the opposite field, rookie Junior Hemingway hauled in several receptions including a circus grab that prompted some fans to give a standing ovation during 7-on-7 drills.

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