One of the many questions Kansas City Chiefs fans have been asking since the end of the 2018 season is which players would start at left guard and center in the coming season.
In recent weeks, we’ve had indications that last season’s Mack Lee Hill award winner, Andrew Wylie, was the man to beat at left guard, and Austin Reiter had the inside track to become the starting center. Both players came to the Chiefs as unheralded players just last season but shined when the offensive line was decimated by injuries.
There is still a long way to go. A lot can happen between now and the opening kickoff in Jacksonville on September 8.
But as far as starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is concerned, the center of the Chiefs offensive line is coming along very well with Reiter and Wylie.
”Andrew Wylie is a tremendous athlete,” Duvernay-Tardif told the press after the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. “He’s bringing good energy and good chemistry to the group. It’s been really nice to see him grow as a player.”
Before the beginning of OTAs, Duvernay-Tardif had not yet had much opportunity to play with Reiter, but he’s getting to know him now.
”I never had the chance to play with Austin, so we’re kind of building that chemistry right now — building that footwork to make sure that we can share space and be at the right spot in the right moment, This is great, great work — specifically for the offensive line.
”I think that if you learn the strengths and weaknesses of everybody, you kind of go from there building that chemistry and that relationship with all the players — and being able to communicate,” he continued. ”What’s great with Austin is that you can go talk to him in between plays and drives and ask him, “OK, how would you approach this?’ or ‘What would you have done differently?’ or ‘What can I do better to make you better?’ This is great, and I think we’re going to grow as a middle three with Andrew and Austin and myself in the middle.”
But Duvernay-Tardif understands that until the final roster is decided upon, it’s all about competition.
“I think what we want as a unit is the best guys out there — to create that competition — so we can all get better,” he said. “I think that’s what’s happening right now. It’s been fun so far. We all know what’s at stake, but we’re all having fun together, which is great.”
Last season wasn’t much fun for Duvernay-Tardif, who suffered a fractured fibula in the fifth week of the season and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve. The Chiefs had hopes that he would be ready to return in the playoffs, but it just wasn’t to be.
”It was tough,” he said. “When I had surgery, they told me [it would be] anywhere from 8-12 weeks. I knew it was going to be tight. I gave everything — pushing the limit every day to try to come back. I was short a little bit. I think I was activated during the Seattle week, and it took me a little too long to get back in shape.”
Of course, he was disappointed that his rehabilitation had taken too long, but he understood that it was the right decision for the team.
”You’re a competitor, so you want to play — contribute to the team and help. I struggled a little bit not being able to go on the field, but at the same time, I understand coach’s decision.”
The NFL’s only player who is also a doctor laughed out loud when he was reminded by a reporter that physicians tend to make poor patients.
”It was first experience being on the other side of the patient-physician relationship,” he said. ”Even though it’s kind of hard, I think I learned a lot. I think I’m going to be a be a better physician because of that. You learn how to cope with the psychological challenge of being injured. I think I’m going to grow as a human and as a physician.”
His medical career is still on track — although the NFL is more of a distraction than most young doctors have.
”Now that I’ve graduated, I still have residency to go through,” he told the press. “I want to do emergency medicine. But it was kind of in a gray zone, because I didn’t start the official program. So I did a few shifts — a night shift — in the community hospital in order to stay in touch with my knowledge and try to stay up to date. But I didn’t didn’t start my residency per se. That’s my plan for next offseason.”
In the meantime, he’s enjoying getting back into the routine of being an NFL offensive lineman. And being impressed by Patrick Mahomes.
”I think Pat showed us last year that he was really athletic and [had] really good vision of the game and [had] really good arm strength and precision,” he said. “Now this year. what’s really impressed me is his ability to be an awesome leader. Right from the get-go, he was like, ‘OK, we’re going to get this thing this year.’ Being able to rally everybody behind him and lead by example — that’s what you really want to see in a quarterback. I think for us as offensive linemen, you want to protect him — to strain your gut to finish every play for a guy like that.”