Chiefs Training Camp: Night Practice Has A 'Game-Like Atmosphere'

Greetings from Kansas City. I've just returned from St. Joe, the site of the Kansas City Chiefs first training camp evening practice.

There were in the neighborhood of 8,000 folks that attended, I was told, and Spratt Stadium was packed. There were fans lining the end zones as well as each set of bleachers filled.

According to several players we talked to, this was A.) the closest thing to a game and B.) very much needed at this point. The Chiefs are nearly a week into training camp and the grind is starting to hit so a few of them said the fans and playing under the lights were a major bonus at this point.

We'll be back tomorrow with what the players had to say but for now here are a few updates from the evening. For those of you in attendance, chime in with your thoughts and observations.

Missing in action: Brian Waters and Thomas Jones.

Waters has been out the entire camp with some sort of ankle injury. Jones, however, hasn't missed a practice yet. He had no noticeable injury and spent practice riding the bikes in the "rehab zone" with Waters.

Returning to action: Pierre Walters

Walters had missed several practices in a row for an unknown reason. The Chiefs signed an outside linebacker in his absence but he was back in action tonight. This is pure speculation but I wonder if that outside linebacker being signed was some sort of motivation for Walters.

Dexter McCluster show continues

There's no doubt who the 8,000 fans in attendance liked the most: Offensive weapon Dexter McCluster.

He started things off on a poor note dropping a screen pass but from there he lit it up.

The Chiefs did one-on-one drills between the receiver and defensive backs with all three quarterbacks rotating. Most of the routes were deep and perhaps the catch of the night was an over-the-shoulder grab from McCluster. Brodie Croyle floated a beautiful pass from the 50 yard line that landed in McCluster's outstretched arms inside the ten. Just a great, great play from both sides.

In the same drill, McCluster lined up against Brandon Flowers. He juked to the right as if he was going long then cut back inside on a slant route and caught the ball in stride. Flowers barely caught a hand on him tripping him up.

That wasn't it though. Towards the end of practice, Matt Cassel hit McCluster running full speed -- I happened to be walking by the fence about 15 yards away and I can't even describe what "full speed" is to McCluster -- right in the arms. Perfect pass. Perfect catch. Six points.

That's the sorta thing that gets you excited about his ability to be a receiver.

But that wasn't all. He also lined up as a running back at one point. On one handoff to the left hand side, he made one cut up field and....poof! In a real game, he would have been in the secondary and, well, the defense is probably in trouble at that point.

Most entertaining drill of the night

Generally at these camps, the team portion of practice at the end is the most exciting.

Not tonight.

The one-on-one drills between the receivers and defensive backs were great because they kept going deep. Who doesn't like the deep ball?

Here are a few highlights from that drill:

  • Cassel hit Chris Chambers in stride down the left sideline for six points. Brandon Carr was in coverage.
  • Terrence Copper, who has surprisingly come up with a few nice catches the first week in camp, caught a McCluster-esque over the shoulder catch near the sidelines.
  • Carr got hit hard at times during coverage. He seemed to have an off night.

Kendrick Lewis looks good

I've said consistently that I think Jon McGraw will ultimately win the safety job opposite Eric Berry but Lewis is starting to turn some heads. He turned in a solid night with several pass breakups including a near-interception.

He seemed to be all over the field in some of the red zone work.

One media member next to me noted after one diving pass breakup, "That's a play McGraw simply can't make." We'll see how this thing shakes out.

Situational drills

The Chiefs did some stuff with the field goal unit practicing their late-game set-up.

So the offense would take the field and throw a ten-yard pass to a player in the middle of the field. The player would have to make the catch, get down, and then run off the field to get the field goal unit on to make the kick as quick as possible.

Todd Haley was detailed in this exercise. At one point, Pope made the catch and just set the ball on the ground. Haley pointed out to Pope and everyone else that he should be handing it to the referee to gain that extra second. Interesting stuff.

Ryan Succop, by the way, killed it in this drill. One media member next to me said, "Look at that. That's 45 yards and he makes it look like nothing."

Other notes

Leonard Pope -- all 6'8" of him -- jumped for a high Croyle pass. His height can come in handy at times.

Corey Mays batted a Cassel pass down early in practice.

Jamaal Charles showed nice hands on a catch near the sideline. He had to look back for the ball then position his feet to stay in bounds.

Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas took most of the kick and punt returns with Maurice Leggett rotating in there.

Dwayne Bowe had an excellent catch in the end zone. With Carr in his face, Bowe turned around, caught the ball that went inches over Carr's shoulder and held on. Nice concentration on the play.

During red zone work, one of the linebackers tipped a Brodie Croyle pass and it was picked off by Donald Washington.

If quarterbacks could be hit, Cassel would have been sacked by Tamba Hali on one play. Instead, Cassel got the play off and went deep to Chambers but he dropped it.

After practice, Tervaris Johnson was carted up the big hill with an ice pack on his leg. No word on what that is. Nothing noticeable happened during practice.

Several rookies were seen carrying veterans pads. Mike Vrabel had an easier walk with no pads to carry.

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