After missing the first two weeks of Kansas City Chiefs training camp due to complications with his surgically-repaired knee, linebacker Reggie Ragland finally returned to practice last Sunday.
The former second-rounder said Saturday the unfortunate combination of turf workouts and elevation change in Mexico City “had blew his knee straight up.”
“It was tough,” Ragland said. “Not to be out there with my guys for the first couple weeks. But everybody just kept telling me, ‘Take your time. Make sure your right when you come back.’ And that’s just what I was doing.”
As a precaution, Ragland was held out of the Chiefs’ first preseason game on Thursday night, as was fellow starting inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens (hamstring).
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach signed Hitchens this offseason as a complement to Ragland, who he acquired from the Buffalo Bills last offseason. Hitchens went through a limited practice on Saturday and is coming along.
Ragland is hoping for some in-game repetitions with Hitchens at some point this preseason, though whether the duo will start Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons still remains to be seen.
“It’s very important (to get reps next to Hitchens) because there are going to be times when things are going so fast, and I just got to know how he’s feeling or I got to know his position and know everything, so for the most part, I’m excited to really get to know Hitch.”
Ragland said Hitchens reminds him a lot of Derrick Johnson.
“During this past game (against the Texans) when we both were just on the sideline, there were certain formations he would just call it— ‘It’s either going to be this or a draw,’” Ragland described. “That’s how DJ was. DJ would just come out there screaming it during practice or during the games and everything, so that’s what I see in him.”
Ragland has spoken in the past about how much the mentorship of Johnson, who is now an Oakland Raider, meant to him. The comparison shows that he trusts Hitchens, which will play a critical part in improving what many would say was the Chiefs’ biggest weakness last season—stopping the run.
That, according to Ragland, will no longer be a problem in 2018.
“Don’t worry,” Ragland said. “We’re gonna stop that run. We ain’t playing this year about that run. We’re gonna stop it this year ... the line, the wall is there. We got the guys to do it, but at the end of the day, it’s all about attitude when you want to stop the run. You have to want to do that.”
And in saying that, Ragland wasn’t afraid to reference the elephant in the room—that his defensive unit surrendered 156 yards to Tennessee’s Derrick Henry in the Chiefs’ heartbreaking 22-21 Wild Card loss last January.
“I know you saw the playoff game,” Ragland said. “We didn’t finish, and ever since then, coach (Andy) Reid has been all about finishing. The team’s been all about finishing. I feel like that’s what we’re going to do this year. It’s all a mindset. If you don’t want to do it, we don’t want you out there. All the guys that want to be out there, coach wants you out there. I want you out there.
“I want to be out there, and I want to do it for coach, because he doesn’t have a Super Bowl as a head coach, so I want to get him one.”
There’s a lot of Chiefs fans who want that, too.