The regular season may still be four months away, but the Kansas City Chiefs' rookie class kicked off their preparation for the 2019 campaign on Saturday.
And for all 72 players set to participate in Rookie Minicamp this weekend – from the draft picks to the guys trying out for the team – each of them can’t wait to get started.
“It was fun – and fast. It was just good to get out there and see how things are going to be,” said wide receiver Mecole Hardman, the Chiefs’ first selection in the 2019 Draft last weekend. “I’m just ready for the next practice.”
For one thing, this is the rookies’ very first chance to show that they belong. Every one of these players was either selected in the draft, signed to the team as an undrafted free agent or invited to try out and show what they can do.
Rookie Minicamp is brief – running from Saturday through Monday – but every moment counts.
And, of course, ensuring success this weekend begins with learning the playbook.
“Looking at the playbook, the first thought is just to get it down and [find ways] to simplify it for yourself. The quicker you can learn it, the quicker you can play, and the more you play, the more confident you’ll be,” Hardman said. “It’s been coming to me easily so far, and hopefully, I can get it down to where I can play fast and confident.”
That progress will be put to the test on the field this weekend as the rookies meet many of their coaches for the very first time.
“He’s an energetic dude,” said third-round pick defensive tackle Khalen Saunders when asked about Chiefs’ new defensive line coach, Brendan Daly. “He’s very high-tempo and high-paced. The one thing I really love about him is he makes sure you know what he wants you to do. That’s my biggest thing – I just want to know exactly how you want me to do something, and he does a really good job of telling you that. That and his energy are my two favorite qualities of his.”
Conversely, it’s the first chance for the coaches to see how this new batch of players handles themselves.
“I’m not a heavy-talking guy, I just go out there and perform,” said safety Juan Thornhill. “I’m quiet in the locker room, but when I get out onto the field, it’s like I’m a different person. I just flip that switch. I go out there and make plays – that’s my biggest thing.”
Additionally - coaching styles and personalities aside - it’s also about learning how the rookies can be utilized to help the Chiefs achieve their goals next season.
“I think the things that Coach [Andy] Reid does in his offense suits me well,” Hardman said. “I think I can do a lot of things. I’m versatile, so wherever he needs me to go, I can go. Whatever he needs me to do, I can do it. It’s just up to him in how he’s going to use me, but I have all the trust in him and the coaching staff to use me the way I need to be used.”
And while this is the rookies’ first chance to show off their skills on the field, the trio of Hardman, Thornhill and Saunders already had a taste of Chiefs Kingdom last weekend. All three players flew in for Draft Fest at Arrowhead last Saturday and had an opportunity to speak in front of the fans.
“It was really great,” Thornhill said. “I got here and thought I’d just have a press conference and meet the coaches, but they asked me to head over the stadium to meet a couple fans. I thought it’d just be a few, but I walked in and there were so many of them. I’m not used to talking in front of a lot of people and I basically ended up giving a speech in front of them, but it wasn’t bad at all because whatever I said, they were just going crazy. It was a great experience.”
That excitement brings along with it a sense of responsibility, but it’s something everyone taking the field this weekend is ready to embrace.
“We’re ready to grow with this team and to bring some championships here. We’re ready for that pressure,” Hardman said. “We’re ready to work.”