The Kansas City Chiefs returned to Training Camp on Wednesday following an off day from practice on Tuesday and hit the ground running, kicking off a stretch of three-straight days in pads at The University of Kansas Health System Training Complex.
In terms of who didn't take the field, Head Coach Andy Reid provided a quick injury update following practice.
"[Defensive end] Frank Clark is ill - he has a virus that he's just trying to shake here – so we're working with him on that," Reid said. [Defensive tackle] Chris Jones has a slight strain in his groin and [wide receiver Byron] Pringle has a hamstring [injury]. [But] really, for the most part, everybody got out there, worked and did a good job with it."
There was some exciting news on the injury front, too, as safety Juan Thornhill participated in individual drills for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 17 of last season.
"It's good to have Thornhill back. He was limited today, but he'll keep ramping up," Reid said. "He sure had a good couple of workouts prior to getting activated again there, so we think that's a plus."
In addition to Thornhill, cornerbacks BoPete Keyes (orbital fracture) and Antonio Hamilton (groin) practiced in a limited capacity.
For what happened on the field, here are a few quick notes about Wednesday's practice:
- Wide receiver Marcus Kemp, who spent the last three seasons with the Chiefs, re-joined the roster prior to practice and made one of the best catches of camp so far with a leaping grab deep down the sideline.
- Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon recorded a batted pass at the line of scrimmage, using all of his six-foot-seven frame and 35-inch arms to disrupt the play. Kpassagnon enjoyed an impressive season in 2019 with four sacks in eight starts and is putting together a strong camp.
- Safety Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Ben Niemann each notched an interception.
- Defensive end Alex Okafor impressed yet again in what has been a really strong camp for the veteran pass-rusher as he returns to action following a season-ending pectoral injury in 2019.
Following practice, Reid, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz and tailback Darwin Thompson spoke with the media via web call.
Here are five things that stood out from their pressers.
1. Reid spoke about Kemp's return and what it's like to have him back in town.
Kemp appeared in all 16 of the Chiefs' regular season games back in 2018 before suffering a knee injury during the following preseason. Now a full year later, Kemp is back on the field for Kansas City.
"Having him back is great. He's a great kid and I'm so glad that he's back now because he was playing his best football since we've had him here when he got hurt," Reid said. "It was a shame that happened and now he's getting a chance to come back. It looks like he's worked his tail off. We worked him out yesterday and he did a great job with it. So, he needs to get himself into football shape, but he took some reps today and did a nice job with it, and we'll just see how it goes. We need depth at that position - there and the secondary - because they do quite a bit of running."
The 25-year-old Kemp was a major contributor on special teams in 2018, seeing the field on more than 64 percent of the Chiefs' special teams' snaps.
2. Hitchens was asked how Kansas City's defense – which ranked among the best in the NFL from Week 11 through the end of the season – can maintain its edge heading into a new year.
"Every year, we just re-start and we start back at ground zero. [There's] a whole new edge to do it again, and again, and again, and again. There's only one goal when you're playing at this level and that's to win a Super Bowl. Anything else is not acceptable," Hitchens said. "Every year, you just re-start and try it again. You have a new edge every year. You re-start all over and the edge is to get back there again."
The Chiefs allowed a league-best 11.5 points-per-game over the final six regular season contests of the year while yielding the second-fewest rushing yards and the lowest passer-rating against in the NFL.
3. Hitchens also shared his excitement surrounding Thornhill's progress and his return to the field.
"It was definitely good to see Juan back out there. You could see he was smiling from ear to ear, finally getting to move around with us and stuff like that," Hitchens said. "Kudos to him for putting in all the work and getting back here not even a full year from the injury. Good for our [athletic] training staff and for Juan for putting in all the work, while everybody else had an offseason, he was still grinding. Good things happen to good people that work hard. He's moving forward, and I'm looking forward to having him back out there soon."
4. Schwartz discussed what he and the rest of the offensive line are trying to accomplish in this camp following such a unique offseason.
"You kind of progress through camp and try to add more tools because - just like if a defensive lineman only has one great pass rush – eventually, you kind of figure it out. As a lineman, if you only have one pass set, eventually, they kind of time it and figure it out, so it's working to expand that, working out of your comfort zone and really honing in on that," Schwartz said. "To me, that's what Training Camp is about - its weirdly a time to fail. I mean, we've heard [quarterback Patrick Mahomes] talk about throwing interceptions and knowing what the limits are - things of that nature - and it's the same for us. We have to know our limits and we have to know what works and what doesn't."
5. Lastly, Thompson explained where he feels that he's grown as a player between this time last year and now as he enters his second season in the NFL.
"Last year in camp, [my] eyes were wide open like a deer in headlights, so this year, I know what to expect and [how] to perfect my craft," Thompson said. "…This year, I see the blitzes a lot better. I can recognize the disguises that the safeties [use]. I see the running game a lot better, [too]. I was watching and studying other running backs [a lot this offseason] as far as their eyes and how they see the run game – [defensive tackle] shades and understanding different fronts of a defense. I did a lot of studying this offseason. There were a lot of things I had to get better at for me to be successful in this league."
Thompson flashed his potential with limited opportunities in 2019, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries. He tallied a season-best 44 yards on 11 attempts against the Oakland Raiders in Week 13 and 38 yards on just eight carries in Week 15 against Denver.
The Chiefs return to practice on Thursday for yet another day of pads as they continue to prepare for the upcoming campaign.