*Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid explained that everyone, including offensive lineman Jeff Allen (knee), defensive lineman Dontari Poe (back) and wide receivers De'Anthony Thomas (calf) and Albert Wilson (knee) returned to practice on Wednesday. *
OL Paul Fanaika was placed on injured reserve. For more on that, scroll to the bottom.
Head coach Andy Reid
Head coach Andy Reid explained what he saw in offensive lineman Donald Stephenson that made him believe he could play left tackle this season.
"He was able to go through camp," he said. "Last year, it was a little bit up and down for him. This year he came back in good shape, he got in there and did a nice job. Like I said before, I thought he felt more comfortable on the left side than he did on the right side."
Reid went into what it takes for a player on the Chiefs to switch sides on the O-line.
"Let me say this—Andy [Heck] trains the guys to play all of the different positions on both sides if you're only a tackle," he said. "So with that, then it comes back to your post-leg and post-arm and how you use that and where you're most comfortable with it. In Donald's case, he probably has more reps on the left side than he does the right side if you really break it down."
Reid described what makes Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt a difficult matchup.
"They move him all over; there's not one place he's going to be over and over. They're going to move him up and down the line and inside and outside. He's a good athlete and he's a smart player. He keeps leverage and he's relentless, he keeps bringing it. I look at it like it's a great opportunity, it's a great challenge to be able to play a great player. I think from a player standpoint, you look forward to testing yourself against what people consider the best. I think that's the approach you need to take and I think that's how our guys will go about their job there."
Quarterback Alex Smith
Quarterback Alex Smith delved into what it's been like to prepare for the Houston Texans under head coach Bill O' Brien. "I think especially if you're playing a team that has a coaching change, there is maybe an advantage there for them that you don't know what new stuff they have or they came from," he said. "You're looking at different teams' tapes, things like that. That's hard and difficult to do. And then as far as yourself, yeah, sometimes in the regular season, obviously, you get on a roll and it's easier when you're in a rhythm. You've got to find a way to start fast though, in this league, and that's what you're trying to do. That's what you've been trying to do with camp and preseason and find a way to come out and start fast. I think, certainly, we look at last year that we didn't do that."
Smith said even though he knows J.J. Watt will be coming, his focus is not on him.
"Obviously he's out there and he's a good player, but when I'm playing, I'm not worried about him," he said. "I'm going to be focused downfield on more important things. I think the thing that does jump out as a quarterback is that these guys do a great job of getting their hands up. I think he leads the league, too, in passes defended as far as batted balls and [Jared] Crick, I think, is number two. So, they have two guys that do a good job. They all do a good job getting their hands up and bat a lot of balls down. Important to find some windows and find a way to get it over them."
Smith said he spoke to offensive lineman Eric Fisher after he was given the news about the position change.
"I think the biggest thing was just telling Fish that obviously everyone respects what a team player he is," Smith said. "He's stepping up and he's going to do what's best for the team and best for our offensive line, doing what's needed of him. I think he's grown up a lot in his three years and I think you have to, having gone through what he's gone through and stepped up and played early. I think he realizes that."
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin reiterated that he feels good about his chemistry with Alex Smith.
"I think I made a statement earlier—I don't think I've been off to a better start with a particular quarterback," he said. "It's all about trust; he trusts me, I trust him. We're able to get together and communicate and talk about certain things on the football field. I think that's the type of relationship you want with your quarterback. And not to mention his athletic ability and his talent and my ability and my talent, so I think we're in good shape there."
Maclin discussed the Houston Texans defense.
"That's a very good defense," he said. "Obviously they probably have one of the better defensive players in the league in J.J. Watt, they brought in Vince Wilfork to kind of plug up the middle. Christian's back healthy, so they've got some guys in the front seven that can make some plays and some veteran guys in the back end, so we've got to go out there and pay attention to detail and go out there and execute. Like I said, if we get better each and every day, we'll be ok."
Maclin shared his thoughts on the younger receivers with him on the Chiefs headed into the season.
"I think the big thing that they've got going for themselves is they all want to get better, they all want to learn," he said. "I think when they have that type of mindset, everything comes easy. Obviously, if they weren't talented enough, they wouldn't be here. All of these guys have exceptional talent, I can name them all down the board: Albert [Wilson] and De'Anthony [Thomas] and Frankie [Hammond], you've got Jason [Avant], who I was with for a couple of years. He's not young, but all these guys have something to bring to the table, including myself, so it's all about coming together as a unit and going out there and making plays."
Tight end Travis Kelce
Tight end Travis Kelce said that in some ways, the Royals and the Chiefs are very similar.
"I think we share some characteristics in terms of how much energy and we show how much we love to play the game – them playing baseball and us playing football – I think we all show a lot of passion," he said. "I think we feed, mostly, off the city's vibe, the fans, the KC faithful, they always bring it every single week. Sure enough, when they're in the playoffs and football is in-season, it's hard to keep these KC fans quiet."
Kelce feels that all the players in the locker room believe that 2015 could be special.
"I think we have a lot more confidence, a lot more knowing of what we're capable of. Last year, I think it was kind of a mystery, especially after the first game, the first game we had two of our core guys, defensively, go down. I think there's a lot more confidence in who we are and what we can be. A lot more focused on staying on track and doing the right things, week by week."
Kelce said he relishes having the role of No. 1 tight end now.
"Nobody puts the amount of expectations on me more than I put on myself," he said. "It's one of those things where I want to have all the eyes on myself, so other guys can shine when I'm on the field. Taking coverages, taking defenders away from other guys so they can get open. It's going to be fun what we can really accomplish here."
Offensive lineman Eric Fisher
Right tackle Eric Fisher said he was willing to play "wherever" needed for the team. "When I was being drafted, that was one of my big things, that I played basically every position in college. I was put on the right my rookie year, went over to left last year, they need me at right, hey, I'm all for it."
Fisher admitted that he did feel a bit of pressure as the No. 1 overall pick, but now he's passed that.
"I definitely went through my growing pains," he said. "I went through digging myself in a hole, putting myself in unnecessary situations by putting pressure on myself. I'm over that, I'm confident in what I'm doing now. If you need me on the right, I'll go to the right, if you need me on the left, I'll go to the left, whatever I have to do to help this team win. If that's what Coach Reid thinks is best for our five up front, he's got the best five in the best positions, then so be it."
Fisher said this offseason was impactful for him both mentally and physically.
"It was my first real offseason that I had since I've been in this league," he said. "I took some time to really do some self-reflection and find out where I needed to grow mentally, physically and just be a better player overall. I think I took advantage of that and I thought I had a pretty decent camp until I got rolled up. On to the next game and I'm looking forward to it."
Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs
Offensive lineman Ben Grubbs understands the task in dealing with the Houston Texans front seven.
"It's a huge challenge," he said. "Everybody knows J.J. Watt, Vince [Wilfork] – [Jadeveon] Clowney is expected to play some – they have pretty good [linebackers]. It's going to be a huge challenge; I think the most important thing for us is going to be film work, understanding what they do as a defense as a whole, they have a lot of different thing to their defense, a lot of different stunts. Then, on top of that, you have to account for each individual player every play. It's going to be a huge challenge, but we're definitely up for it."
Grubbs knows that even besides J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork is another challenge for the Chiefs.
"Just a big body," he said to describe Wilfork. "You have to have four hands on him in order to move him. That's what we're looking forward to. At the end of the day, they're still human beings – like everybody says, they put their pads on just like we do. We're going to have to understand that our technique and fundamentals can't change just because we have top-notch players in front of us. We're going to have to have good footwork, hand-placement, make sure we keep our eyes up. And just do everything that we can do on a daily basis in blocking people."
Grubbs discussed being between left tackle Donald Stephenson and center Mitch Morse.
"Donald is a great player and I look forward to playing next to him this season," he said. "He brings some attention to the offensive line, he's tough, he's a smart player, he's young, he can run. I'm looking forward to playing next to him, I'm looking forward to playing next to Mitch [Morse] as well. Mitch is a young player and he has a lot on his plate, but I think he's doing a great job in handling the big responsibility that he has."
--- Head Trainer Rick Burkholder's note on OL Paul Fanaika:"With Paul, Sunday morning, he came in, he gets a workout in, he's lifting in weight room, he gets tightness in his back. We put him out on the field, he struggles at practice. We treat him, try to get his back calmed down. He came in the next day worse. Dr. [Joseph] Barnthouse saw him Monday morning, referred him for an MRI, which showed he had a herniated disk in his back. [We] referred him to KU's neurosurgery on Tuesday. Dr. Paul Arnold saw him. He recommended he had surgery. We're in the spot right now where we're trying to decide. Some of these can go without surgery and some can't, but with the timing of it, they put him on injured reserve because he was going to miss time. As you ask about the injury, the debate is do you try to rehab him and take almost the same time as you would if you operated on him and rehabbed him. That's why we don't have a definitive answer. We're referring him to some other people for second and third