By Matt Derrick, Chiefs beat writer for Sports Radio 810 WHB and ChiefsDigest.com
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — After 15 full-squad practices and 18 total workouts at Missouri Western State University, the Chiefs broke camp for a trip to Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the preseason, but after that it’s back home to the friendly confines of the Truman Sports Complex.
“It was awesome out here this year,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of training camp. “We were able to build a lot of chemistry and we got to have a lot of fun, so we’re happy to be here, but now we go back to KC and get ready.”
Head coach Andy Reid feels the team accomplished its goals for the 24-day training camp.
“The guys came out with I thought a great attitude,” Reid said. “They had a purpose of wanting to be better. That’s the way they approached it. Every day, they came with something individually to make themselves better, and then collectively as a team to make themselves better.”
The Chiefs had plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the ball, installing a new scheme and immersing several new faces into the starting lineup. Safety Tyrann Mathieu feels the defense came along way during camp improving techniques, enhancing communication and building chemistry.
“I feel like we came here with the idea to come closer as a team,” Mathieu said, “obviously get a lot of good work in, one-on-ones, special category, different situations. We’ve got a long way to go, but we feel like we’re going the right direction.”
The Chiefs appear relatively injury free after training camp, particularly among the team’s starters. The club lost only two players to injury during camp, placing cornerback Keith Reaser on injured reserve and waiting tight end David Wells with an injury designation.
Reid ruled out just four players for Saturday’s game, including wide receivers Gehrig Dieter (back) and Davon Grayson (knee), H-back John Lovett (shoulder) and cornerback Michael Hunter (groin). Everyone else is healthy enough play, but it doesn’t mean they all will see snaps on Saturday.
The starters expect to play most of the first half against the Steelers followed by the second team in the third quarter and the third-stringers in the fourth quarter. That’s Reid’s road map, but he’s always prone to change his plans and pull his starters early.
“I have flexibility with it, and I’ve got 51 percent of the vote,” Reid joked on Thursday. “I work it dependent upon how I feel. I give the players some guidelines on it and then if I cut it short, I cut it short.”
Even with many teams around the league now giving star players an extended rest in the preseason, Reid still prefers providing his veterans time on the field. He believes his players want to play, including Mahomes — “He wants to work and we go with that,” Reid said.
Indeed, Mahomes says he treats the preseason like it’s the regular season.
“(I) just go out there and try to play like it’s supposed to be played,” Mahomes said. “Until coach takes me out, I’m going to go out there and try to score points.”
Reid confesses he doesn’t worry about escaping the preseason without injuries as much as others may do.
“I mean, it’s good, that’s a positive thing, but I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that,” Reid said. “I want to make sure that we get the work in.”
The first-team offense played just a single series in Week 1 against Cincinnati, boat racing down the field for a touchdown. The No.1 defense has a bit more to prove, however, and Mathieu hopes to see the team come out physical Saturday night.
“I want to see us tackle, communicate well, don’t give up any big plays, and that’s all I really want,” Mathieu said. “It’s just preseason, everybody communicate, tackle well, show great effort and just get out of there healthy.”
Returning after the game, the Chiefs have just five practices left before embarking on the regular season. The club starts its normal game-week preparation after Saturday’s preseason trip to Pittsburgh. The team will take an off day on Monday with practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the Week 3 preseason home game against San Francisco.
It’s a short week after that, with practices on Aug. 26-27 before the preseason finale at Green Bay. All workouts from here on out take place at the team’s training complex in Kansas City and are closed to the public.
Upon the opening of training camp, club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt told the team 2019 wouldn’t be a successful season without winning a Super Bowl. The players leaving St. Joseph with the same sky-high expectations.
“This season is going to be big,” Mahomes said.