The Kansas City Chiefs took the field in pads for the third-straight day on Friday as Training Camp continued at The University of Kansas Health System Training Complex. The Chiefs are currently in the middle of a stretch with five padded practices in six days, marking perhaps the most physically demanding portion of this year's camp.
There was some good news injury-wise on Friday, as defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) and wide receiver Byron Pringle (hamstring) both returned to practice. In terms of who didn't take the field, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring), defensive end Frank Clark (illness), offensive tackle Eric Fisher (concussion), defensive end Alex Okafor (calf), tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (leg), tight end Deon Yelder (groin) and offensive lineman Martinas Rankin (knee) were all sidelined due to injuries.
Additionally, rookie defensive end Mike Danna left practice early with a calf injury.
Following practice, Head Coach Andy Reid provided a quick update on Hill, who left Thursday's practice early with a hamstring injury.
"It's day-to-day. It's not a big tear or anything like that, but it'll be a few days," Reid said. "We'll ease him back in."
Reid also mentioned that rookie cornerback L'Jarius Sneed wasn't at practice in order to rest a "tweak" from Thursday's practice period. Lastly, wide receiver Sammy Watkins (groin), safety Juan Thornhill (knee) and cornerback BoPete Keyes (orbital fracture) all practiced in a limited capacity as they make their way back from injuries.
For what happened on the field, here are a few quick notes about Friday's practice:
- Quarterback Patrick Mahomes made some impressive throws throughout practice, including a quick, sidearm touchdown pass to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. That duo also linked up earlier in practice when Mahomes sprinted to his left to evade pressure and fired a first-down pass on the run.
- Rookie defensive back Rodney Clemons grabbed a deflected pass for an interception early in practice.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman hauled in a touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills.
- Defensive back Chris Lammons showed great hustle chasing down and stopping an end-around play during team drills.
- A couple of undrafted free agent wide receivers impressed during practice, as Maurice Ffrench caught a touchdown pass in 7-on-7 drills and Justice Shelton-Mosley made a scoring grab deep down the field in a team period.
Following practice, Reid, Hardman, Thornhill and linebacker Ben Niemann spoke with the media via web call.
Here are five things that stood out from their pressers.
1. Reid explained how the coaching and front office staffs are evaluating the roster through camp and how the lack of preseason games this year affects that process.
"One thing [General Manager] Brett [Veach] does is a great job of communicating with the coaches. He's always talking to them and we meet at night and we grade the players. We grade them every play - whether it's special teams, offense or defense – so, we'll come out with a pretty good idea," Reid said. "It's still early now, but every practice and every rep becomes important. We talk to the players about that - that your tape ends up being important in this time. We don't have a chance to see you in games with the preseason games, so you have to show [something] in these other phases here, and it's no more important than on special teams. Normally, you have a couple - two or three guys - that make it on special teams just because their play there, but you don't have that opportunity to be in a game and [show] that."
2. Thornhill provided a quick update on his rebab progress as he works his way back to the field following an ACL injury in Week 17 of last year.
"I'm not really sure when I'll get the full go, I'm just trying to stack good days through individual [drills], work through the pain a little bit and just hope that I can get back out there soon," Thornhill said. "Throughout the whole rehab process, [Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance] Rick [Burkholder] and [Assistant Athletic Trainer] Julie [Frymyer] did a heck of a job. I came back from Dallas after my surgery and we pretty much jumped right into it. We had to get that range of motion, build up the strength and once we got that, I started to get a little bit more mobile on the field. I started to feel like it was about time for me to at least get back out there with my teammates and start moving around in individual drills. If we keep on doing that, hopefully, I can get out there soon."
Thornhill was one of the top defensive rookies in all of football last season, earning a spot on the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team. He was also a major reason why the Chiefs allowed the third-lowest passer rating on throws of 20+ yards in the NFL in 2019.
The injury was a bump in the road, but the 24-year-old Thornhill attacked his situation with the same tenacity that he brings to the field.
"With the ACL injury, it's very stressful if I'm being completely honest. I was talking to [safety] Tyrann [Mathieu] about the two ACL surgeries that he had, and he said the main thing is to be positive. That was the first thing that I wanted to do was just be positive throughout this whole process," Thornhill said. "If you're not positive, it's going to slow down your healing process. I just wanted to stay positive and lift up my teammates as they were going through the playoffs. I didn't want to be that guy who was a cancer in the locker room that they always heard from. I just wanted to be there and lift them up."
3. Thornhill was a big reason why the Chiefs were so well positioned for their postseason run, but after watching the playoffs from the sidelines, he's hungry as ever.
"With me not being out there, it just made me really hungry. I have never felt this hungry before. I was hungry coming into the NFL, but with me not being able to play in the playoffs, I feel like I let my team down and I can't let myself fall back," Thornhill said. "I need to pick up where I left off and take off. Hopefully, I can help my teammates get back to the Super Bowl and, hopefully, I can play in this one."
4. Hardman, another second-year player, explained where he thinks he has grown the most as he heads into 2020.
"Just my confidence. I think I'm confident in the system and what Coach Reid has in place," Hardman said. "I think I've improved being a more overall receiver instead of just a deep threat. I can do the intermediate routes well now."
Hardman certainly made the most of his opportunities last season, hauling in 26 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns. In fact, his 20.7 yards-per-catch led all players with at least 20 grabs on the year.
The former second-round pick was simply one of the top playmakers in the NFL, and as he looks ahead to 2020, his chemistry with quarterback Patrick Mahomes continues to improve every day.
"It's growing and it's going to continue to grow. My job is to play my role, do my role and do it well…It's my job to gain trust with Pat. We have a lot of weapons on the field, so the more he can trust me, the more potent the offense can be," Hardman said. "I just try to do my job, man. Catch every ball I come up with, take advantage of every opportunity and keep running."
A year ago, Mahomes jokingly mentioned that he had to remind Hardman to keep running on deep routes during camp. A season of big plays later, that doesn't seem to be an issue this time around.
5. Lastly, Niemann spoke about the differences between this time last year - when the Chiefs were learning a new defense – and now.
Niemann has played in 30 games (2 starts) for Kansas City over the past two seasons after joining the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
"I think just being in the second year in [Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's] system, I feel more comfortable. In college, I didn't play in the box - I wasn't an in-the-box linebacker. My rookie year, we ran a 3-4 scheme which was totally different. It was night and day [when compared to] what we're in now," Niemann said. "Last year and this year have kind of been my first two years as a true inside 4-3 linebacker, so I think just being more comfortable in the scheme [is what's different]."
The Chiefs return to practice on Saturday and will do so at Arrowhead Stadium as part of an exclusive Season Ticket Member viewing event as Kansas City continues to prepare for the upcoming campaign.