In today’s pro football landscape, the league calendar is designed in such a way that there is always something going on. We know what happens from September to December, but the playoffs, the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl week, free agency, the NFL Draft and offseason workouts keep us all talking. 47 straight weeks of new video clips, new sound bites or new additions to your favorite club.
But now we have entered the only true “dead period” of the year. Quarterbacks and rookies report to Kansas City Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph exactly five weeks from Tuesday. Veterans report a few days later, with the first full-team, open workout scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time (We have the training camp schedule here).
Until then, how the players spend their time is largely up to them. And realizing that, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid made sure to pass along a clear-cut message as minicamp broke last Thursday.
“We know expectations are high and we appreciate that and the guys have worked hard to put themselves in that position,” Reid said. “However, you have to take care of what you can take care of and that’s getting yourself right so that these next five to six weeks are important weeks for you. Then you have to have small ears. You don’t need to listen to a lot other than getting out and doing your job and working.”
That emphasis will start with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“He’ll take a deep breath, but not much,” Reid said. “He’ll end up throwing quite a little bit and he’ll get the guys together and do that. He’s got a little blend going on where you need to step back and rest up and then you got to crank it up and get yourself ready for camp.”
“A few leaders on the team just talked to the guys and told them that we’re not going backwards when we get to training camp,” Mahomes added. “When we get to training camp, you want to make sure you’re adding on and getting better every single day. You don’t want to lose all the stuff that you’ve worked for in this minicamp and the OTAs. I feel like that’s what we kind of emphasized to the whole entire team.
“Go out, enjoy the break, get some time off because you’re going to need it, especially going into this long season. But make sure you come back ready to go, first day and we don’t have to build into that.”
As for what he intends to do away from the field specifically, Mahomes said he’d like to get out and play golf. On the field, just like last year, he will gather the team’s pass catchers to keep himself in shape while continuing to grow rapport.
“I’ll definitely be throwing the majority of the time,” Mahomes said. “This is the time that you kind of need to go. When you get to training camp, we throw the ball a lot, so you don’t want your arm being sore, especially when those days start adding up. I’ll definitely be out there throwing the ball. A lot of the guys stay here, so it will be easy to get guys out there. Being able to travel around and maybe get to see other guys that are going back to their homes.”
Mahomes said that over the past few weeks during OTAs, Reid installed new plays every day. Reid told the media that the reigning MVP is part of that process.
“[We have] open communication, which is healthy,” Reid said of Mahomes and play design. “He has ideas and they’re good ideas, so I’ll listen to that and then I try to bring him a nice basket of plays and let him try to digest those. He loves that challenge. He’s a pretty sharp cookie so he has good ideas, too.”
What has been different for Reid and Mahomes this year is a formidable, new-look defense that occasionally won the day during OTAs, even without star defensive lineman Chris Jones.
“I’m seeing a lot of energy, a lot of communication and a lot of just going out there and making plays,” Mahomes said of the defense. “They’re trying a lot of different stuff too and what works and doesn’t work. I feel like it’s been a good back and forth the whole entire camp, which is always good to see and I feel like they’ve even had a couple days that they haven’t gotten from us before. I’m excited to see that. There are some guys going out there and winning some days and competing every single play.”
It can be hard to fathom given Mahomes’ instant success in his first year as a starter, but 2019 will only be his second season in that role. What he learned from his first, he said, was an awareness of when to lead.
And to his credit, it was a noticeable trait during the six open OTAs media sessions.
“I think just knowing when I talk and when I need to be vocal to kind of help get the guys going,” Mahomes said when asked what he took away from his first year. “Whenever I may see practice starting off and maybe not the right way. It’s stuff like those little things where you kind of know when to talk whenever you can change a practice instead of sitting back and letting it happen. That’s something picked up on from last season.”
Similarly, Mahomes won’t let the next five weeks happen. Even at the age of 23 (the equivalent of an infant in pro football), Mahomes values what mid-June workouts could mean for you in January.