The Kansas City Chiefs officially kicked off their title defense campaign on Saturday afternoon as quarterbacks, rookies and some players coming back from injuries reported to The University of Kansas Health System Training Complex to begin training camp.
"I appreciate the league and union - them working out an agreement where football can go on in a safe manner and we can look forward to a season," Reid said. "Here we sit with the young players and we have an opportunity to work with them. We'll start off with a few days here where they'll be lifting and conditioning, and then we'll ramp up into some other things and gradually get ourselves into pads and incorporate the vets once they get in…and what a great opportunity [this is]. It's a very unique time. We think we're going to put the players in a position where they're safe, and it's a responsibility at the same time. It's a responsibility for the coaches, for the players and for anybody dealing with the players to take responsibility to follow the format that's set for us to fight this virus and still have an opportunity to play football."
As Reid said, this camp will be particularly unique as the Chiefs navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but the coaching and athletic training staffs feel comfortable with the procedures that are in place.
Burkholder elaborated on what went into those protocols during Saturday's web call with the media.
"This is a championship organization and when it comes to COVID-19, that's how we've acted," Burkholder said. "Pandemics aren't fun, but there is a silver lining for me in working for the Kansas City Chiefs and that is that I have learned so much about the people in this organization while doing this unbelievable task - something I had no idea I was going to have to deal with. You find out a lot about trust, loyalty and reliability. If you take those three words and you go back to the 2019 season, that got us through and that will also get us through this pandemic."
The procedures in place include frequent testing, utilizing contract-tracing technology, social distancing and sanitizing of team facilities.
"We've taken the stadium and converted it over for training camp. We're using the concourses for meeting rooms that are very socially distant. We've changed our cafeteria and our cafeteria policies where we have social distancing - tables that are spread out with only two or three chairs per table- and everything is to-go with no buffets," Burkholder said. "As far as sanitizing goes, the group here at the practice facility and that will go over the stadium with training camp, they look like they work at Disney. They're behind you all of the time wiping door handles and touchpoints. We have these electrostatic sprayer guns for sanitizing. Every time the team leaves the locker room or weight room, they clean it."
Burkholder continued by explaining that some practice procedures will differ as well.
"You're going to see some changes at practice because there's no more squirting water in guy's mouths. It's now all individual bottles. There's no towel sharing. You're going to see some changes at practice with how we go about it," Burkholder said. "You're going to see equipment guys wiping down pads in between reps. All players will wear the tracing device at practice as well. This is a very serious and very big undertaking, but we feel good about it."
Burkholder also explained that education is a major part of the Chiefs' response to the pandemic.
"We've educated the players and will have presentations on three separate occasions. We will educate the veterans when they get here. We're also educating the families of all of the players and staff that are going to be in these tiers," Burkholder said. "We want them to know that we're doing everything possible to keep their loved ones safe."
In addition to Reid and Burkholder, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, linebacker Willie Gay and offensive lineman Lucas Niang also joined Saturday's web call.
Here are five things that stood out from the rest of Saturday's media availability.
1. Reid was asked about offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who elected to opt out of this upcoming season in order to continue fighting COVID-19 back in his native Canada.
"I'm a huge Larry Duvernay-Tardif fan, and I was also raised by a doctor. I understand the dedication that it takes to be a doctor, and we're all blessed to have doctors in our lives. They're givers. They're not takers. They're givers. They're healers. They want the best for you, so Larry has that quality, and you're seeing it to the utmost here," Reid said. "I just think it's tremendous dedication to his profession, what his future is going to be, and mainly to the people that he gets to help. My heart goes out to him. I had a great talk with him and a great visit with him. His players support him, the veteran players support him, and the coaches support him."
Mahomes later echoed that same sentiment.
"I think it surprises anyone, but at the same time, you respect his decision. He's a guy that's been on those frontlines working with the people that are suffering from COVID day-to-day and putting in all that time and all that work," Mahomes said. "He understands it and his decision was he wanted to stay there and he wanted to keep helping in that capacity. I know it was difficult for him, but you respect the decision for him to kind of put his thoughts aside and do what he thought was best to help out his community and the world as he sees it."
2. Sticking with Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP shared his thoughts on the Chiefs' health and safety protocols as he begins returning to the facility.
"You'd be lying to say you had no concern, but at the same time, as I've been through the facility now last night and a little bit today and seeing all the protocols and all the safety things that Rick and all these guys have put forth, it's really kind of made me feel even better than I thought coming in," Mahomes said. "[I know] how much the NFL and the NFLPA have really put in to make sure we can be as safe as we possibly can be. That's kind of put my mind at ease, knowing that I'm going to be in the best possible situation, given the time, to be as safe and healthy as possible."
And with that peace of mind in-hand, Mahomes is ready to get the "Run It Back" campaign going.
"My feeling is I'm ready to get back after it. I think that's the biggest thing, once you hit this first day, it's all starting over again," Mahomes said. "It's been a different offseason. Obviously, it started with the Super Bowl win and being on a high level, then dealing with a pandemic and other movements that have kind of gone on throughout our nation. You've had to try to keep your head on straight and deal with it in the best way possible for you and the community around you. Now, I'm glad to be back in the facility, back with the guys that are my teammates - guys that we've built this culture together. Now, it's about restarting the process and doing it over again. We understand it's going to be hard - it's going to be a day-to-day process - but we're going to go out there with the mindset of being the best team that we can be every single day."
3. Edwards-Helaire, meanwhile, expressed his excitement to finally be in the practice facility and get started.
"Ultimately, I'm just really happy to be here. This is my happy place. I've only been on the Earth for 21 years and I've been playing football ever since I was five, so this is what I do," Edwards-Helaire said. "I can't wait. Everything - the setup - everything about everything here is perfect for me and I can't wait."
4. And Gay, the Chiefs' second-round pick out of Mississippi State, explained how the uniqueness of this offseason could be utilized as a positive.
"I think it's actually going to help me out a lot in a positive way," Gay said. "These are changes that nobody is used to but it's going to make us stronger in a lot of ways. We're going to have to pick up on the playbook faster, we're going to have to jump in right away with no training wheels and get after it as fast as we can. It's going to make us better in the long run."
5. Lastly, Niang spoke about his versatility up front. The third-round pick was a tackle in college but the front office has discussed his potential at guard as well.
"Ever since getting drafted and having that conversation at the Combine about me potentially moving to guard, I've been practicing both guard and tackle trying to get comfortable," Niang said. "I [want to] be as versatile as possible to help my team out."
It's been a long six months, but after perhaps the strangest offseason in NFL history, the Chiefs' title-defense campaign as officially underway.