An undrafted free agent out of Kansas State, Byron Pringle had a legitimate shot at making the Kansas City Chiefs’ 53-man roster in 2018. In the Chiefs’ fourth and final preseason game—the one that typically plays a significant role in determining the roster’s last few spots, Pringle put on a show.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound wide receiver caught three passes from Matt McGloin and one from Chase Litton as he compiled 122 yards against the Green Bay Packers. He also returned a kickoff for 47 yards.
There was just one problem.
Pringle pulled his hamstring in the game, and the MRI revealed he had a left inguinal hernia that needed immediate attention. Rather than making the roster, Pringle made the injured reserve list.
But now he is back and turning heads at Chiefs OTAs.
“I thought Byron Pringle has done a great job thus far through the OTAs,” wide receivers coach Greg Lewis said last Thursday. “He’s played fast, he’s played physical and he’s plucking the ball out of the air and he’s giving himself an opportunity to continue to make plays for us.”
With Sammy Watkins out for personal reasons at yesterday's practice, Byron Pringle took full advantage of first-team reps. @ChiefsReporter shares his observations from the second week of OTAs ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/lmCyGyjP7l— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) May 31, 2019
While the fact that Pringle’s name is now surfacing may come as a surprise to some, the Chiefs must be the least surprised. Back in April—before the NFL Draft—general manager Brett Veach was asked about his depth at the receiver position.
“There are some young guys we like,” Veach said at the time. “The kid from Kansas State, Pringle, I think we’re really excited about. He had that great preseason game last year, hurt the hamstring, but he’s busted his tail in the offseason, he looks really good.
“I think he’s a guy that can step up and surprise. I think we have some guys that are still here that maybe people don’t know about or realize that we know more about.”
The Chiefs went on to take a receiver Mecole Hardman with their top pick, but many feel that has more to do with the situation surrounding Tyreek Hill than anything else. Regardless, Pringle has made an effort to come back even more NFL-ready than he was before.
“I’m putting in the hard work this offseason and it’s finally paying off,” Pringle recently said at a Kansas State event, via D. Scott Fritchen of GoPowerCats.com. “I’m taking advantage of my opportunity right now. I’m ready to show the fans of Kansas City and Kansas State how hard I’ve worked and that I belong in this position.”
And Lewis and Veach aren’t the only members of the Chiefs’ staff who have Pringle on their radar. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub, who plays a significant role in determining who makes the last few spots of the Chiefs roster, has also taken notice.
“[Last] preseason, he was having an outstanding game,” Toub said. “We were really high on him last year, and he’s really taking it. He did a great job with his rehab, number one, and those guys getting him back because he’s really looking good right now. He’s like taken it to another level, so we’re really excited, the way he looks right now.”
As any receiver would, Pringle enjoys playing with the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes.
“With Pat, you have to have eyes in the back of your head because when he’s throwing the ball, it’s unbelievable,” Pringle said. “He sees things that other quarterbacks probably don’t see, and he’s able to move around in the pocket, and he’s going to keep the play alive. The play might look dead, but you’ve got to run to the open spot immediately. He’ll see you, even if you’re in the back side on the football field.”
Byron Pringle is older than Chris Jones, Tyreek Hill and Kendall Fuller.— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 3, 2019
He's also less than six months younger than Sam Watkins. It's possible Watkins will be on his third contract before Pringle is done with his first. pic.twitter.com/GQAfaZxW7B
As it stands, Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman are certain to make the Chiefs’ 53-man roster. We don’t know this yet, but Hill probably won’t start the season with the club, meaning the team—which usually keep six wide receivers—would keep seven.
That scenario would mean three open spots for Pringle, who would be competing with Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp, Jamal Custis and Cody Thompson.
“I’m not the only person that’ll be a key part of this football team,” Pringle added. “There’s a lot more guys, a lot of new guys, who have come in and who have the same talents and ability. I want to let the fans know and everybody else know I’m going to put in my work every day and give it my all. I’m just blessed to be in this position. A lot of people didn’t think I’d be in this position. I just want to let them know I work hard and I’m going to continue to work hard during this OTA period and our training period.”
Of course, the Chiefs are still in shorts.
Pringle will have to continue to show out when the team puts the pads on in St. Joseph and then once again during the preseason.
But I think his odds are strong. If he can stay healthy this time around, he may not only make the team, but also become one of the pleasant surprises of 2019.