Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Cam Erving has seen snaps at left tackle, left guard, center and right tackle so far this training camp.
Tell Erving, 25, that back in 2015 when the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 19th overall pick, and he might have scoffed at the idea.
These days, he’s looking at the positives.
“That’s one of the things that makes me valuable – being able to be versatile,” Erving told the Chiefs media after training camp practice on Wednesday. “For a while, I took it as a curse but it’s been a blessing. Just being able to learn all the ins-and-outs of each position and over time being able to just focus in on one thing a little bit more and go here or there if I’m needed.
“It’s definitely been great to be versatile. It took a while to learn how to be versatile. I mean, I could go in and step in and do something, but now it’s just becoming a little easier – being able to go in and execute the offense.”
With Mitch Morse still not ready to play during OTAs, Erving filled in at center despite previously saying he didn’t care for the position. But head coach Andy Reid, who has consistently said he’ll put the best five offensive linemen he has on the field, felt he was the Chiefs’ best option.
Recently, with Morse back in the lineup, Reid has felt Erving is the best option for the Chiefs at starting left guard, giving him the reps over Parker Ehinger and rookie Ryan Hunter.
“I thought he did some good things,” Reid said after practice Saturday. “You know he can play all three positions and the fact that he got in and was able to play center, you have to know everything there, you’re in control and he did a nice job with that.
“Then he stepped in and got some guard work [Saturday].”
Erving can look no further than the case of Zach Fulton to realize how valuable playing multiple positions along the line can be. From 2014 to 2017, Fulton started 40 games (including playoffs) for the Chiefs—20 at right guard, 12 at center and 18 at left guard.
“I learned a lot from Zach as far as how he just played each position seamlessly,” Erving said. “That comes with time, of course. I definitely learned a lot from Zach as far as his approach to the game and how he narrowed things down and didn’t try and think about too much.”
It paid off for Fulton this offseason, when he signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Houston Texans.
But asked about whether seeing that contract motivates him, Erving took the conversation in a much different direction.
“Man, I want to be great and I’ve wanted to be great since I was drafted,” he said. “Being around Zach made me want it a little more. His journey was a little different, but I’m hungry to go get whatever. I’m just thinking about going out and stacking good days on top of good days. What comes in the end or what comes later will come.”
In early May, the Chiefs opted to pass on Erving’s fifth-year 2019 option, which would have paid him $9.6 million. 2018 is thus a contract year for the former Florida State Seminole.
The move didn’t mean the Chiefs gave up on him; they just weren’t willing to pay that price.
General manager Brett Veach has liked Erving’s upside since late last August, when he swapped a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft to acquire him from the Cleveland Browns.
“That guy can do a lot of different things,” Veach said of Erving in April. “I think versatility is a premium and that is why linemen go high and that is why you have to draft a few linemen every year.”
Looking back now, Erving is grateful Veach made the trade after a rocky two-year stretch in Cleveland to start his career.
“[It] definitely helped me,” he said. “Being in the NFL is a blessing in itself. It was definitely good for me to get a change of scenery and get here and get a fresh start.”
The challenge will be in making the most of it.
“My whole life, I’ve wanted to be great,” Erving reiterated. “I’ve wanted to be the best at what I did, and now I have an opportunity to do that.”