Kansas City Chiefs starting tight end Travis Kelce has been sidelined for the entire offseason program after undergoing “cleanup” ankle surgery to alleviate nagging pain he’s felt over the last few seasons.
Now fully recovered, Kelce is being eased back in with the other injured players before the rest of the veterans report to Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri on Friday afternoon.
He’s been ready to get back to playing for a while.
“I’m sick of everyone snickering in the background,” Kelce told Arrowhead Pride in June. “‘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.”
After getting back on the field Wednesday, Kelce told the press that while he’s happy to continue coaching younger players, he prefers to teach by example.
“It’s good to get a sweat in, take the visor off and put a helmet on and get out there and start running around,” he said. “As the role I had in the offseason being a player-coach, it’s a lot easier being on the field leading by example than it is to just talk about it. It doesn’t matter how much credibility you have on your resume or what you have done in the past until you go out there and go through the motions. Show the effort. Show the excitement to be out there with the guys.
“It’s a little different when you see a guy out here going through the motions and bringing the energy and more so walking the walk than just talking it.” he added. “I think just being out here working with the guys and showing them this is how we do it here and leading by example, I think that’s the best way you can do it.”
When everyone is back in camp on Friday, the Chiefs will have six — count ‘em, six! — other tight ends on the field, with room for just one or two more in September. Even though most of them aren’t going to make the final cut, Kelce said he is impressed with the group.
“The best thing is that all of these guys are willing to work and willing to learn,” he said. “Even last year, Dememtrius Harris, he was a hell of a player and we’re going to miss him. Guys will need to step up. But at the same time, we have unbelievable players here. Brett Veach and Coach Reid have done an unbelievable job of bringing guys in that are ready to play and fill that void. I think we will be just fine in the tight end area.”
Kelce was specifically asked about undrafted free agent John Lovett, the former Princeton quarterback the Chiefs want to convert into a tight end — or possibly an H-back. As a former college quarterback himself, Kelce appreciates what Lovett is going through.
“He is a brilliant kid,” said Kelce. “He’s learning the offense faster than a lot of guys would and it makes sense. He’s a high-intellect guy and he understands the information and knows how to put it into his own way and his own form. He is a different athlete than a lot of us. That’s the biggest thing making the transition from quarterback to tight end: you didn’t grow up playing that position, so you are already behind the eight ball on that; you can’t just go out there and do ‘tight end stuff.’ It has to make sense in your mind and it turns into almost your own position and your own way on how you play the game.”
Kelce was also asked about being on the beach with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and other Chiefs receivers — which was commemorated in a viral video last week. Kelce said the experience made him realize that his ankle surgery had done exactly what it was supposed to do.
“I was playing around and running around on the beach,” he explained. “There was times when my ankle got caught in an awkward position just being in the beach running around — and I could tell you that last year or two years ago that thing would have just rolled out and I would’ve probably been sitting there watching guys run routes on the beach instead of being out there doing in myself. I’m very fortunate that Dr. Anderson, the trainers here — David Glover, Rick Burkholder and everybody — [have] gotten me to the position where I can just go out and play football.”
Like his quarterback — who repeatedly spoke of the team’s brotherhood on Tuesday — Kelce places a premium on the chemistry and camaraderie he shares with his teammates. He said the trip helped cement that for the coming season.
“I already feel like this team has unbelievable chemistry,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we went on a trip like that — because we are all so close and we wanted to enjoy some time somewhere else instead of only enjoying it in the buildings. It helps in a way, but at the same time, the chemistry is solid and we’re always working forward from there.”