The Kansas City Chiefs returned to practice on Wednesday afternoon with a preseason clash with the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium just three days away.
In injury news, wide receiver Gehrig Dieter (back), cornerback Michael Hunter (groin), tight end John Lovett (shoulder), defensive tackle Breeland Speaks (knee) and tight end Deon Yelder (ankle sprain) didn’t take the field on Wednesday. Safety Tyrann Mathieu partially practiced as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
Following practice, Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy and newly-signed wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas met with the media.
Here’s what stood out from their pressers.
1. Toub spoke about the addition of Thomas to Kansas City’s special teams unit.
Thomas has extensive experience performing a variety of roles on special teams, both as a return man and as a gunner in kick coverage. The Chiefs lost a gunner in wide receiver Marcus Kemp to Injured Reserve earlier this week, creating an opportunity for Thomas.
“When Kemp went down, there was obviously a hole there, and he kind of fills that hole for us,” Toub said. “He plays a lot of the same positions. He’s a different type of guy – he’s more of a speed guy - but he brings a lot to the table for us. It’s good to see that he’s healthy and he looks good out there right now.”
Toub went on to explain why Thomas fits that gunner role so well.
“I’ve said this before, but he was probably pound-for-pound the toughest player that we had last year early in the season,” Toub said. “He’s not just a returner – he’s a cover guy, he’s a gunner, he’s good on kickoff and he can block. He’s not afraid to stick his head in there.”
2. And it’s not just special teams, as Thomas can contribute on offense, too. Thomas talked about his familiarity with the playbook on Wednesday as he gets back in the swing of things.
“Andy Reid’s mind moves 100 miles per hour, so he’s always throwing different stuff in [the playbook], but it’s just great to be back and to be a part of this team,” Thomas said. “I’ve always been a contributor on all of these teams I’ve been on, so just getting back to contributing – whether that’s on special teams or offense – making plays and doing whatever I can to help this team [is what I want to do].”
The timing couldn’t be any more exciting either as Thomas joins a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
“It’s unbelievable,” Thomas said. “I watched a few games and I could just see the electricity from special teams to offense to defense, so that got me fired up and now I’m just back to bring a little more of a spark and bring more flavor to it.”
3. Thomas also mentioned his affinity for Kansas City as a reason for sticking around.
“I stayed in the Kansas City area [this offseason]. I love KC and don’t think I’ll ever leave this place,” Thomas said. “It’s the environment. I grew up in south central Los Angeles in a fast neighborhood, and I feel like here in KC, the vibe is a lot slower. That’s perfect for me. I love fishing, too, and that’s a big thing out here. I’m just enjoying my life. I’ve accomplished a lot of things - and now I’m trying to accomplish more - but I never got to realize what I was doing because everything was moving so fast. It’s all about taking it in and how I can keep going forward.”
4. Bieniemy, meanwhile, discussed what Thomas brings to the offense.
“I’ll say this, De’Anthony is a football player. He jumped right in here yesterday and took a few reps. He’s been with our organization for a number of years, so he knows the culture, he knows the system and he knows how to do things,” Bieniemy said. “It’s important to get somebody back, but also somebody that can bring some juice. This kid loves to play football, he loves to practice and he enjoys it. Those are the type of people and that’s the type of character that we want.”
On a wider scale, Bieniemy was later asked what he expects out of the offense during Saturday night’s preseason contest against San Francisco. The Chiefs fell to Pittsburgh last week, 17-7, after a rain delay pushed kickoff back about an hour.
“I’m looking forward to watching our guys get back in sync and in rhythm. I want to watch them handle the sudden change. I didn’t think we did a good job of handling the schedule last week collectively as a group,” Bieniemy said. “With that happening, one thing I think is that through some bad times, you can always find some good things. By experiencing that schedule being pushed back and having to start over, I think it taught us something. We have to make sure we’re living up to expectations by eliminating the distractions. Let’s make sure we stay focused and poised, and the rest will take care of itself. [On Saturday], I’m anticipating that we come out and play hard and focused together.”
5. On the other side of the ball, Spagnuolo was asked to speak about rookie cornerback Herb Miller, who has impressed during the preseason thus far.
Miller joined the Chiefs as a rookie tryout signee last spring and through two games of preseason action, the Florida Atlantic product has an interception and a forced fumble.
“You know, I’m thinking about Herb back when he was here with just the rookies. At that time, I didn’t know all the faces, but I remember I heard a loud voice in the back – somebody who was very enthusiastic and assertive – and it was Herb,” Spagnuolo recalled. “Where I’m trying to go with this is it wasn’t too big for him right from the beginning. He didn’t have any problems stepping up in there and doing his job. He’s vocal and he’s not afraid to make a mistake – I recognized that right away. He has a long way to go, but I think he’s done some good things. He’s an aggressive football player, which we like.”
Spagnuolo also touched on veteran cornerback Morris Claiborne, who signed with the Chiefs earlier this month, and the progress he’s making on Kansas City’s defense.
“He’s been great. He’s a pro. He’s been at it long enough that he knows how to handle things,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s trying to get as many reps in there as he can. It’s a balancing act because he can’t play for the first four games, but he’s been a real pro about it.”
Spagnuolo was later asked if Claiborne has managed to pick up the playbook in his short time with Kansas City.
“The feeling would be yes,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s hard to tell in walkthroughs until you’re out there and the bullets are flying and things are going fast, but my guess is he’s pretty solid right now with all of that.”
The Chiefs return to the field on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s preseason matchup.