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Dixon’s AP mailbag: injuries, cornerback trades, Mahomes’ contract and preseason games

Two preseason games down, and two to go. What’s on the minds of our readers this week?

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to E-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

How do you see the various injuries (Marcus Kemp, John Lovett) changing the roster composition?

— Bryan

Thanks for the question, Bryan.

It depends on when the question is being asked. If you had asked me on Monday, I would have said that Kemp’s ACL/MCL injury during Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers greatly elevated the chance that Cody Thompson would make the roster. But on Tuesday, the Chiefs put De’Anthony Thomas back on the team. The Chiefs didn’t do that just so they could release Thomas a week from Saturday. He’s more than likely going to be on the 53-man roster — and Thompson’s chance to make the team is right back where it was.

You didn’t mention Gehrig Dieter. He’s been out with “back spasms” since the end of July. With each passing day, it’s becoming less and less likely that Dieter will make the team — regardless of his relationship with Patrick Mahomes. That’s good news for players like Thompson and every other wide receiver behind Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman — all four of whom are likely to make the team.

Lovett’s injury is still mysterious. Again... if you had asked me on Monday, I would have said that the shoulder injury he suffered in the first preseason game might have been serious enough that he might not make the roster — or be placed on injured reserve to start the season. But now’s he’s been seen without the sling he was wearing after he was first injured. The team has made no further comment about his injury.

In any case, Lovett’s intended role with the team is just as mysterious. Is he a tight end? An H-back? A fullback? All three? We not only don’t know how seriously he is injured, but also how that might impact the roster chances of other players.

Your guess is as good as mine.

If Veach tries to swing a trade for a good cornerback, what trade collateral does he have to work with — one of our promising wide receivers?

— Stewart

Thanks, Stewart. Appreciate the question.

As I have said many times, I’m not as convinced the Chiefs are as much in need of cornerbacks as many others are. But for the sake of argument, let’s say they’re right and I’m wrong.

First... let’s get over this idea that the Chiefs can get a proven cornerback who still has tread on his tires in exchange for some player who is considered a bust. It’s just not likely to happen. Might the Chiefs make a deal for a young, unproven corner they like in exchange for a late-round pick — much like they did with Charvarius Ward last season? Sure. That could easily happen. I just don’t think a player like that will fit your definition of a “good” cornerback.

But if you really think that the Chiefs must make a deal for a solid corner, what about trading Demarcus Robinson? He’s shown enough that he could be attractive to a team in need of wide receivers — and it’s not that far-fetched to think that right now, Chiefs might believe they can live without him if they could get a solid corner in return.

If we have slightly above-average guys like Dak Prescott demanding $40 million a year, what does that mean for Patrick Mahomes’ contract?

— Ethan

Hey Ethan. Thanks for your question!

Let’s not let ourselves get carried away here. Unless Dak Prescott actually gets a contract worth $40 million a year, it doesn’t mean anything. Just because a player wants a ridiculous amount of money doesn’t guarantee he’ll get it — and unless he does, it has no real effect on the market. I don’t think he’ll ultimately get a deal quite that rich.

Whenever an NFL player is in the midst of negotiating a big contract, fans often speak wistfully of “hometown discounts” — that somehow a player will leave millions of dollars on the table because a team drafted him. Or they will suggest that a player might forgo millions so the team will have the money to build a championship team around them.

Mostly these are just dreams. Players don’t tend to do either of those things.

But I will say this: I’ve been watching this game for a long time. I’ve never seen a player more well-grounded than Mahomes. As the NFL MVP, he could make any endorsement deal he wanted. But he’s choosing to work with a Midwestern grocery store chain and a local credit union. He’s not on the Wheaties box. Instead, he has his own cereal — one with less sugar than most. He endorses a ketchup brand because... well, he loves ketchup.

Maybe this is all because he grew up in a professional sports environment. Maybe it’s because he’s represented by an old-school agent — one who has made (and lost) a fortune of his own. Maybe his parents just raised him right.

Make no mistake: Mahomes is going to get paid — in all probability, more than any NFL player in history. I don’t think the Chiefs are going to get a sweetheart deal from their young quarterback. But I also don’t think Mahomes is a typical self-centered professional athlete. He’s not going to be motivated only by his own financial self-interest.

Andy Reid takes an old-school approach to preseason. A lot of teams are resting all of their starters for the preseason and supplementing those reps with joint practices in which the starters have less chance of being injured. What are your thoughts on the preseason? How much playing time should the starters be getting?

— Blaize

Great question, Blaize. Thank you.

Once upon a time, NFL teams practiced hard to get ready for the season. Practices were full-contact affairs little different from actually playing in a game — other than the players probably didn’t hit their teammates quite as hard.

All that has changed — and it’s probably for the better. Under rules negotiated with the players’ union, most NFL practices have very little genuine contact. It’s one thing to ask players to risk long-term injury in a game that counts. It’s quite another to ask them to do that on the practice field.

Still, old-school coaches like Reid don’t want their front-line players getting their first real contact of the season in the first regular-season game. I think that’s the right approach. To me, putting your starters on the field without using the preseason to knock off some of the rust presents significant risk.

But somehow, I doubt The Mentor would have agreed with me.

Legendary Chiefs coach Hank Stram famously played every game to win — even a meaningless exhibition game. That was never truer than 52 years ago this week, when his team faced the Chicago Bears in the Chiefs’ first AFL-NFL interleague exhibition game at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium.

“I think the Kansas City team is a real tough football team, but it doesn’t compare with the National Football League teams,” Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi had told the press the previous January, after his team had defeated the Chiefs 35-10 in the inaugural AFL-NFL Championship game. “That’s what you want me to say. I said it.”

Stram — not to mention Chiefs players and fans — had taken those words hard. Seven months later, the Bears never saw them coming.

Municipal Stadium was jammed with more than 33,000 souls when rookie placekicker Jan Stenerud kicked his first extra point as a Chief. He would kick many more in his career — starting with a whole bunch that day.

With minutes remaining — true to Stram’s approach — the Chiefs hadn’t let up. Backup quarterback Pete Beathard threw a 60-yard bomb to set up another score — and on the next play, literally walked into the end zone on a perfectly-executed bootleg play.

The Chiefs’ 66-24 victory — the most points the team has scored in any game and the worst defeat Bears coach George Halas ever suffered — sent a clear message to the senior league: the AFL is coming for you. It would be more than a year before Joe Namath jogged out of the Orange Bowl in Miami with his index finger raised to the sky. It would be another year after that before the Chiefs proved once and for all that AFL teams could compete with NFL teams in Super Bowl IV. But all that started in Kansas City on August 23, 1967.

They don’t make preseason games like that anymore.

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