Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce spent the duration of the team’s offseason program without a helmet, wearing a Chiefs cap and helping fellow teammates where he could.
The 29-year-old Kelce underwent an ankle cleanup earlier in the year, and that has kept him on the sidelines, the very last place he’d want to be.
“I’m ready to go,” Kelce told Arrowhead Pride’s From The Podium podcast on Wednesday night. “It’s kind of been a little bit of an experience just not being able to really go out there and train for the upcoming season quite yet. I don’t know if I’ve had an injury that hasn’t allowed me to get on the field, at least a little bit in the offseason, outside of my knee surgery my first year.”
Kelce landed on injured reserve as a rookie in 2013, missing the entire season.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” he said. “I want to get out there and mesh with everyone and teach, have fun and get better. But right now, just getting healthy is the main thing, and I think we’re there. I think by the time training camp comes around, I’ll be 100 percent.”
That should be welcomed news for the Chiefs, who lost Demetrius Harris to the Cleveland Browns in free agency and might need Kelce more this year than ever before.
At times during OTAs and the first two days of minicamp, he has looked much more like a coach than an active player, joking with teammates while providing instruction from the sideline.
“I’m sick of everyone snickering in the background,” he laughed. “‘Coach Travis! Coach Kelce!’ I’m over that at this point. I just want to get out there and play football. Although, I feel like I can help out some of the young guys with the experience I’ve had and the success I’ve had in this offense and Andy Reid giving me the tools and the ability to be able to coach this up in the offseason. It’s been a blessing—I don’t want to say in disguise—but it’s been fun because I can sit back and I can watch guys, see how they progress and things like that. It’s definitely been fun coaching for the offseason, but I’m ready to play.”
All that being said, just because the four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t been able to participate in offseason workouts doesn’t mean he’s been completely out of the public eye.
Kelce joined Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the NCAA’s Final Four in Minneapolis, and the two recently attended a Bruins-Blues Stanley Cup Final game together in St. Louis.
“He’s a pretty open guy,” Kelce said of Mahomes. “I’ve had a lot of friends that have met us at some of these events that—they kind of look over to me when he walks away, like ‘Man, he’s as advertised. He’s just a great dude, a guy’s guy, just someone that can relate to anyone, have fun anywhere, do anything.’ I’m just like, ‘Yeah man. That’s Pat Mahomes for you.’”
During one televised shot during the Final Four, Kelce was caught chugging what looked to be a Coors Light, something that may have accidentally launched an NFL-wide trend.
Kelce laughed at that suggestion.
“I did not start that, by the way,” he said. “That has been something that has been going on for decades I think ever since television has been invented. You know what? It’s been fun, and I’m pretty sure you could say that those cameras wouldn’t have been on me if it wasn’t for Pat Mahomes being around. But it’s been a fun offseason, especially with having to deal with the surgery and trying to get around and do some things and some cool events. It’s been a fun offseason for us with a little bit more fun during the season yet to come.”
Speaking of this past offseason, it was one in which New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski opted to retire. A year apart from “Gronk” in age and similar in his offensive style of play, Kelce has often been compared to the three-time Super Bowl champ.
But similarities abound, Kelce has no plans to hang his cleats up anytime soon.
“Forever,” he said when asked how long he intends to play. “I love this game, man. Honestly, I can’t put a number on it. Unfortunately, this game has an end for everyone, and I know that. I’m trying to take care of my body as much as I can, which is kind of why I got the surgery after the season this past year, so that I can play as long as I can. I have a blast every time I come into the facility with these new coaches, players.
“There’s more electricity in the building than I’ve felt since I’ve been here in Kansas City, and the expectations are high and you know what? It’s kind of like I started playing football all over again. I love Kansas City, so I hope I’m here for the entire career that I have in the NFL, and hopefully I can stay healthy so I can play as long as I can and hopefully, that’s many, many years to come.”
For the past three seasons—2016 to 2018—Kelce has compiled more than 1,000 receiving yards each year and scored a total of 22 touchdowns. But at this stage of his career, Kelce has said that stats are the last thing on his mind.
“[I want to] be accountable for every guy on the team,” Kelce said when asked about his 2019 goals. “I know that’s kind of cliché, but I’ve gotten to the point where you know what? Stats are going to take care of themselves. There’s no reason to put a number on anything. All and all, when you go out there and want to win a football game, you just have to be accountable on every single play for the guys around you, the coaches that have put you in those positions to succeed, and that’s where I am in my career. The stats and everything are going to take care of themselves.
“I know Andy (Reid) is going to dial me up, and I’m going to get a couple opportunities a game to make a play and it’s my job to go out there and make them, whether I’m running the ball, I’m blocking, I’m catching, I’m throwing, whatever they want me to do. That’s where I got to hold myself accountable.”
Being in the building, Kelce says that it is easy to see the defensive additions—especially Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu—have “without a doubt” made a difference.
But there is one important ingredient still to come.
“The craziest part is we’re still missing — and it’s out of respect — we’re still missing the most loud human being I’ve ever met in my life in Chris Jones, so I could only imagine how this thing’s really going to get when Chris gets back into the building. I’m excited for it. I know the entire team feels the energy and we feed off of it, and sure enough, this minicamp, this training camp, this OTAs, that stands true. We’ve just been competing our tails off trying to get better, and guys have been getting better.”
So is 2019 Super Bowl or bust for the Kansas City Chiefs?
“Yes,” he quickly said. “To be honest, that’s how I’ve felt every single year. If you don’t achieve that, then you’re selling yourself short. No more than what we did last year. What we did last year is cool and all—bringing that much excitement to Kansas City for the first time in a long time, I think that’s fun and that’s awesome, but I think we fell short of our goal.
“And that’s created a lot of motivation this offseason not only for myself but for this team and we got an edge coming the first week of September.”
Kelce is partnering with Seresto and Bar K Dog Bar this weekend for the grand opening of the Seresto stage on Saturday. Kelce will judge a touchdown dance competition at Bar K from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time. Bar K is located at 501 Berkley Plaza, Kansas City, MO 64120.