One may assume that the Kansas City Chiefs‘ offseason splash signing of wide receiver Sammy Watkins would be bad news to the ears of Chris Conley, who would have probably been penciled in for the No. 2 job in 2018.
But per the man himself, one would be wrong.
“I’m excited,” Conley told the media after the Chiefs’ second minicamp practice on Wednesday. “We‘ve had talented guys around here with Tyreek (Hill), J-Mac (Jeremy Maclin), Jason Avant. I kind of started with a really talented group my first year, and I see what happens when you have a lot of guys with experience who can play on the field, and that‘s what we want.
“We want to create competition, but at the end of the day, we also want to have as many guys out there who can make plays in those situations as possible.“
Although CB Steve Nelson wouldn’t get into specifics, he said that he has spotted WR Sammy Watkins at the #Chiefs facility doing “extra work on the weekends.”— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) June 13, 2018
Conley has ”fully” participated in mandatory minicamp this week after going through a rehab period this offseason for a ruptured Achilles he suffered in the Chiefs’ Week 5 game against the Houston Texans last season.
The injury came at an especially bad time for Conley, who seemed like he may have been on pace to have the best season of his three-year career.
Conley had compiled 11 catches for 175 yards over five games when he suffered the season-ending injury. However, rather than feeling bad for himself, Conley took the injury in stride.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a sport that has a 100 percent injury rate. If you’re in it long enough, you’ll get injured. And so, in some sort of way, I knew something was coming, whether indirectly or directly, and you just roll with the punches.
“I’ve had teammates who have gone through devastating injuries; I’ve had teammates that haven’t come back from it. It’s all about your perspective and it’s all about working at coming back. It’s not just a waiting game. You don’t just wait and rest until you’re healthy. You work at it.”
Conley wouldn’t put a percentage on where he is currently at in his recovery, but said he feels fast. Conley played at 225 pounds last season and came back to mandatory minicamp 11 pounds less at 214.
When the Chiefs added Watkins this offseason, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed that Watkins would play the “X,” or No. 2 position, while Tyreek Hill would remain at the “Z,” or No. 1.
And while Reid’s receivers move around the line of scrimmage in his West Coast offense quite a bit, deeming those roles largely undefined, Conley returns to the Chiefs in 2018 off his injury more a role player than a go-to.
Chris Conley: Sammy Watkins is picking up the Andy Reid West Coast offense way faster than anyone I've seen pick it up.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) June 13, 2018
Conley is entering his fourth year in the playbook.
But he’s OK with that because he understands what it means given the Chiefs have Watkins and Hill to go along with tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt.
“I think it’s evident when you see the guys in our room, the talent in there and the arm that’s going to be throwing the ball, the ball can go anywhere, there’s going to be open guys because you can’t cover that many people, so wherever they ask me to line up.
“Right now, we’ve been very multiple with our sets. We’ve added a couple new personnels that move and shuffle everyone around to every spot—literally, every spot.“
Conley is figuring the signing of Watkins won’t make it harder for him to make an impact; it may actually make it easier.
“If you pay attention on the sidelines, during (minicamp) practice, Sammy and I usually hang out on the sidelines in between our sets together,” Conley said. “We talk through things. We talk through the nuances of the game. Every offense has a different feel to it. You might have a route that’s on paper, but you run it different because of how the defense kind of molds and shifts.
“We talk through those things a lot and he has a high football IQ. He’ll be fine.”
So will Conley.