The Kansas City Chiefs hit the field for the first time at training camp on Wednesday afternoon as quarterbacks, rookies and select injured players got a head start on preparation for the 2019 season.
The rest of the roster won’t report until later this week, so numbers were relatively light, but it was practice nonetheless. Here are a few things that stood out:
Following practice, Head Coach Andy Reid, tight end Travis Kelce and rookie safety Juan Thornhill spoke with the media. Here’s a roundup of what was said.
1. Reid kicked things off by discussing the unique nature of running a practice with only a handful of the roster on the field.
"We're not as deep on the defensive side as we are the offensive side right now [in these rookie/injured player practices],” Reid said. “My defense - they were about one-deep there. We took breaks periodically there just to make sure that we didn't do anything too bad for them, but they did well. [Juan] Thornhill did a good job."
Thornhill is one of 10 rookies on the defensive side of the ball in camp for Kansas City this year, and by the sound of it, the second-round pick’s first day in St. Joseph went pretty well.
2. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs have a ton of guys vying for a roster spot at tight end
Kansas City currently features eight tight ends: Blake Bell, Jody Fortson, Nick Keizer, Travis Kelce, John Lovett, Neal Sterling, David Wells and Deon Yelder. Kelce is an All-Pro at the position, but the other seven are each trying to make their case to stick around this season.
It’s the kind of competition that Reid covets in a camp like this.
"This is probably the deepest we've been at that spot since I've been here for this camp,” Reid explained. “Again, they have to compete and sort it out. They have somebody with Kelce that has been there and that they can talk to and see how it's done. Kelce is good with sharing that stuff, along, obviously, with [tight ends coach] Tom Melvin coaching them. We have to come out with some tight ends out of this and they know they have opportunities."
3. Kelce, meanwhile, was excited to hit the field on Wednesday after a foot injury held him out of Organized Team Activities and Minicamp.
“It’s good to get a sweat in, take the visor off and put a helmet on and get out there and start running around,” Kelce said. “The role I had in the offseason [was] being a player-coach, [but] it’s a lot easier being on the field and leading by example than it is to just talk about it. It doesn’t matter how much credibility you have on your resume or what you’ve done in the past. Until you go out there and go through the motions, show the effort and show the excitement to be out there with the guys, it’s just never the same. Today was a good day to get out there.”
The Chiefs were certainly glad to have him back. Kelce put together a career-season in 2018, hauling in 103 catches for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s just the fifth tight end in NFL history to tally 100+ catches, 1,000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns over the course of a single season and his 1,336 yards through the air are the second-most ever at the position.
And after getting healthy this offseason, he’s ready to get back at it.
“I’m 100 percent, flying out there and having fun,” Kelce said. “I didn’t have any issues today and there’s one thing about football, there’s nothing you can do to get ready for what you’re about to encounter out there on that field. It’s just one of those sports where there’s a lot of instinctual decisions - making small micro-decisions - when you plan how a guy is coming at you and sometimes, you get caught in a bad position. Working these fundamentals, you make sure you stay in the best positions that you can. That’s what we’re working on right now.”
4. Kelce was later asked how he goes about easing himself back onto the field, and his answer was simple enough.
“We’re here. Once we hit the ground running at training camp, it’s full go. You can’t worry about stuff like that,” Kelce said. “Football is one of those games where you have to have a little fortune when it comes to being healthy. It’s just the way the game is played. There are a lot of physical guys out here playing football and playing it the right way, you just have to have some fortune with that, but at the same time, you can’t think about it. You just have to put your head down and just play ball and work your tail off.”
After such an incredible season in 2018, it’s exciting to imagine what Kelce can do for an encore during the upcoming campaign.
5. Finally, Thornhill discussed how veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu has helped him so far during his young career with Kansas City.
“Honestly, he’s a quiet guy. A lot of people don’t know about it. If you watch him, he doesn’t seem like he’s that quiet, but he definitely is the type of guy that is going to help me out,” Thornhill explained. “Like, if I have a question, I can go up to him and ask him anything and he’ll definitely take me under his arm and try to work me through whatever I don’t understand.”
Mathieu joined the Chiefs this offseason and has already made an immediate impression, thrusting his trademark energy into each and every practice. In fact, Thornhill later discussed the progress the defense as a whole has made over the last few months.
“When we first got out there, a bunch of our guys were playing a little slow because guys didn’t really know what was going on. I mean, everything was pretty much new to everybody,” Thornhill said. “Everybody is starting out fresh with new coaches and everything, but now since we had OTAs and minicamp, guys are picking up things a lot faster and picking up the defense and we are making a lot more plays, so that is definitely helping us.”
Fans can check out that progress in person beginning on Saturday when camp opens up to the public. Click here to learn more about the practice schedule.