The Kansas City Chiefs continued their preparation for the 2020 campaign over the weekend with a practice at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday and a padded practice back at The University of Kansas Health System Training Complex on Sunday.
Saturday's practice was open to a limited number of Season Ticket Members and provided fans with their first opportunity to watch the Chiefs in action since Super Bowl LIV, and it didn't disappoint.
From the "quarterback challenge," which featured all four signal callers trying to fire the football through a tackling donut that had been tossed in the air, to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce running a "hook-and-ladder" play to wrap up team drills, Saturday's practice was full of energy and fun throughout the morning.
"It was great to get back in our stadium and have some fans there," Reid said. "The guys fed off of the energy, which was great."
The Chiefs returned to the practice facility on Sunday and suited up in pads for the fourth time in five days following the lighter, "10-10-10" practice at Arrowhead. In terms of who didn't take the field on Sunday, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring), defensive end Alex Okafor (calf), tight end Deon Yelder (groin), defensive end Mike Danna (calf) and offensive lineman Martinas Rankin (knee) were all sidelined due to injuries.
Following Sunday's practice, Head Coach Andy Reid said that there were no new injuries to report and that safety Juan Thornhill, who is making his way back to the field from an ACL injury, participated in some 7-on-7 drills.
For what happened on the field, here are a few quick notes from this weekend's practices:
- Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson made a one-handed touchdown grab early in Saturday's practice.
- Safety Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Charvarius Ward and linebacker Ben Niemann all made impressive interceptions in coverage on Saturday.
- Kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 62-yard field goal on Saturday and nearly hit a 69-yard attempt that fell just short and hit the inside of the goal post.
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins made a tip-toe touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone on Saturday.
- Cornerback Rashad Fenton put together a strong practice on Sunday with multiple pass break-ups and an interception in team drills.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman had an impressive practice with several tough catches on Sunday, including a shoestring touchdown grab just inside the pylon.
- Defensive back L'Jarius Sneed made a great interception during team drills on Sunday with a leaping catch on a deep pass.
Several individuals were made available to the media following this weekend's practices, including Head Coach Andy Reid, Mahomes and Mathieu.
Here are five things that stood out from their pressers.
1. Reid spoke about Mahomes and how the reigning Super Bowl MVP is constantly looking to improve despite his immense success already as a professional.
"He's always wanting to learn, and he also has ideas. I try to keep the line of communication open with him, and he does the same thing on his end. That's a healthy room right there. It's a good [place to learn] for all of those guys. There's experience, there's youth and there's [some of the college element] coming into the league," Reid said. "We've tried to keep open communication all the way along, and I've tried to do that with Patrick the best I can."
The Chiefs feature veterans Chad Henne and Matt Moore in their quarterback room in addition to rookie Jordan Ta'amu.
2. Mahomes discussed the practice at Arrowhead on Saturday and what it was like competing in front of a crowd for the first time in a while.
"Having the fans there, I think it gave us [another level] of energy. Being out there with the fans cheering, you just get to see the passion that they have, and Chiefs Kingdom is unmatched. It was awesome to be out there and to be a part of that," Mahomes said. "You saw me hyped up and how it got me going…There were only 2,000 people there, but it was loud."
3. Mahomes was also asked what he enjoys most about Training Camp now as he heads into his third year as the Chiefs' starting quarterback.
"I think what I enjoy is the challenge of every single day," Mahomes said. "When you're in Training Camp, you're not getting the looks that you might expect. You're not getting the perfect look or the perfect play where we schemed it up perfectly. It's a challenge every single day, and when you have a defensive coordinator like [Steve Spagnuolo], he's trying different things and it makes it challenging on the offense. So, for me, it's about going out there every single day, having your highs, having your lows and grinding through. It's about finding how to be better the next day."
4. On the other side of the ball, Mathieu shared his expectations for the Chiefs' defense in 2020 as the season-opener inches closer by the day.
"We expect to pick up where we left off last season as one of the best defenses in the National Football League," Mathieu said. "No, it wasn't pretty. No, we don't have this extra amount of first-round draft picks. We just have a lot of guys who work hard and who fit our scheme really well. A lot of those guys are coming back, so the expectation is to be one of the best defenses in the National Football League. [We want] to start this season faster and to finish even stronger than we did this past season."
Kansas City posted the top statistical defense in the league from Week 11 through the end of the regular season in 2019, holding opponents to the fewest points-per-game (11.5), fewest touchdowns (7), second-fewest rushing yards (570) and lowest passer rating (63.5) in the league.
5. Thornhill was a big part of that success last year, and as the second-year safety works his way back to the field, Mathieu has been impressed.
"It's a blessing to see a guy come back from an injury like that. Not many people can truly overcome it mentally. I think for him, he's in a good space and he has a lot of good people around him. I think he's confident in himself and his abilities, so I think that's going to actually help him once he gets on the field," Mathieu said. "In my opinion, I think he looks smooth. I've been through two ACL [injuries], so I know there's going to be some growing pains there, but to say he's eight months since post [operation], he looks pretty good. He looks like a natural defensive back."
Thornhill started all 16 games for the Chiefs last season and earned a spot on the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team for his efforts.
The Chiefs return to practice on Monday to wrap up a stretch of five padded practices in six days.