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Chris Conley may not always get the ball, and he’s OK with that

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The Chiefs wide receiver hopes for another chance to find his identity on the team in 2018, but he’ll settle for his team to have success.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only natural.

The Chiefs have new draft picks and free agents in camp, and everybody gets excited about them. We all pore over video clips and player quotes, trying to figure out if these new players will fit in, and what they could bring to the team.

But we shouldn’t forget about the players returning to the team.

One such player is Chris Conley. Now entering his fourth season as a Chief, the third-round draft pick out of Georgia has shown an ability to be reliable at the catch point, but has been otherwise relatively unremarkable. That’s something you can say about a lot of third and fourth wide receivers in the NFL.

So for Conley, the 2017 season was one where he could break out — to find his identity as a receiver and his place within the Chiefs offense. Unfortunately, a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 5 against Houston changed all that.

But Conley is, by all reports, back to form in 2018. And even though rookies and free agents have sucked up a lot of our attention during training camp in St. Joseph, he’s been out there every day.

But the question remains: how can Conley find the room to raise himself to the next level when the competition consists of players like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce — not to mention rising players like Demarcus Robinson?

When reminded by our own Pete Sweeney after Monday’s practice session that there is only one ball to go around, Conley chose to speak about his teammates.

“The Chiefs have a great tradition of bringing in guys who are about team,” he said. “They all want to win — don’t get me wrong — we all want the ball, we all want to be able to influence a win. But at the same time, if our brother gets the ball, we’re going to go out there and throw a block to get him in the end zone.”

Conley thinks it’s been deliberate.

“I actually think that’s something that the coaches and management upstairs really took care of when they drafted and brought in these guys. We brought in Sammy Watkins. You know what’s on his résumé, and what comes with that name. Sammy has been my roommate all through camp, and he’s one of the most humble guys and selfless dudes that I’ve been out here on the field with.”

Conley was also more than willing to give praise to his teammate Demarcus Robinson, who could easily unseat Conley from his position on the depth chart.

“Demarcus Robinson has done everything he’s been asked to do, and he’s starting to show a level of comfort that really translates to him being able to make a lot of plays. He’s a guy that really moves around very well. He’s got good vision as a ball carrier. They’ve had a lot of opportunities to utilize that. And as he continues to get comfortable, he’ll just keep getting better.”

So while Conley is reluctant to blow his own horn, don’t think there aren’t others who are willing to do so. One is his new quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who raved about Conley after OTAs.

“He looks great physically,” Mahomes said. “I said it the first day of OTAs — he was out there really running and cutting and looking explosive. It makes sense that he’s ready because he’s a guy who puts in that work. He’s in the training room every single day. He’s making sure his body is right and he gets after it. He’s also an intelligent guy so I’m excited to have him back.”

“I have an extreme amount of trust in [Conley],” Mahomes continued. “He’s a guy who’s always going to be in the right spot and doing the right thing, and people forget how physically talented he is. He’ll go on top of guys and make a play. He’s another one that defenses have to account for.”

We don’t know yet know exactly how Conley will fit into the 2018 Chiefs offense. We’ll start learning more when the Chiefs take the field Thursday night against the Houston Texans.

One thing is for sure: Chris Conley will be supporting his teammates.