As veteran defensive lineman Mike DeVito gets prepared for the start of his ninth NFL season, he recently opened up about what it's been like at training camp after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury.
"It's been great," DeVito said. "Coming in, I have to admit I was a little bit nervous. I didn't know what it was going to be like coming off the injury. OTAs felt great, workouts felt great, but until you put the pads on, you really never know what it's going to be like.
"But I feel better than I've ever felt."
DeVito, a noted run stuffer whose physical presence in the trenches has been his calling card throughout his career, should help the Chiefs run defense in 2015.
According to Pro Football Focus, DeVito was the NFL's fourth-best 3-4 defensive end against the run in 2013.
Another player welcomed back to the defense this year is veteran linebacker and three-time Pro Bowler, Derrick Johnson.
Just like DeVito, Johnson missed all of last season with an Achilles injury. They both suffered the same injury in the Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
Now that they're back, DeVito said he appreciates everything a little bit more now.
"Every day I go up to DJ and give him a hug, because you don't know how quickly it can get taken away from you," DeVito explained. "A lot of times, you think about camp and how difficult it is and it's easy to get into a funk. But when you recognize the only thing worse than being at training camp is not being at training camp, it makes you so grateful to be out there.
"I know the time and effort it took us to get back to this point."
All of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the grueling rehab have positioned DeVito and Johnson to help lead a Chiefs defense that is as talented as any you'll find in the NFL.
But what's truly special about the Chiefs defense isn't just the talent, which is substantial, but the atmosphere these veterans have created in the locker room.
"A lot of times you have really talented players but a lot of egos," DeVito explained. "And on this team, you really have an incredible amount of talent and an incredible amount of selflessness. I've never been around a team that has had that much of both.
"When you go out there and you're going to battle with your guys to the left and to the right and you care about playing not just for yourself and for your own name, but for the team and for the guys around you, you're going to play that much harder."
DeVito's leadership qualities are easy to recognize, and they were developed from an early age.
His father was a professional bodybuilder and his grandfather coached football at Suffern High School in New York for more than 30 years.
"I've been so blessed to have great leaders in my life starting early," DeVito said. "I remember being four or five years old and going out and running routes with my grandfather throwing me the football and teaching me the game.
"And then the second I hit eighth grade, my dad took me into the weight room and got me ready to lift weights. I had the best of both worlds."
DeVito started his professional career close to home, as he signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maine back in 2007.
Photos from the career of defensive lineman Mike DeVito
It was with the Jets that he began working with Bob Sutton, who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs.
After six years together in New York, DeVito followed Sutton to Kansas City prior to the 2013 season.
"Bob (Sutton) is one of the smartest guys I've ever been around," DeVito said. "He's an easy guy to follow because it's easy to buy into his philosophy and the culture he brings into the defense. I just would like to spend one day in his mind and see how he sees the game of football because it's really amazing to listen to him coach.
"He's a guy I have a ton of respect for, and, again, a guy I'd go out there and battle for day in and day out."
Led by Sutton at the helm, and with DeVito and Johnson now back in the mix, there's a lot of confidence from this group heading into the regular season.
"I think we can be great," DeVito noted. "It started in OTAs and we're continuing to build on that. It's about putting these bricks together, putting these pieces together and building up this wall.
"I think we can be an incredible defense. We have the guys, now we just have to go out there and do it."