On Monday, NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live was on the ground at Kansas City Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, spending their day keeping an eye on the team’s practice while getting reports from other NFL camps around the country.
When practice concluded, head coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and safety Tyrann Mathieu spoke with hosts Steve Mariucci and Mike Garafolo. It was a fascinating window into how the team is now being perceived nationally after advancing to the 2018 AFC Championship.
Mariucci — who served with Reid as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers under head coach Mike Holmgren in the early 1990s — was remarkably deferential with Reid, starting out the conversation with compliments about Reid’s weight loss and the facilities at MWSU. Mariucci also told Reid he was considering calling Holmgren to give him some information.
“If our guy Andy Reid wins one more playoff game, he ties you, Mike, for sixth-most wins in the playoffs all-time: 13 wins. Did you know that?”
Speaking with Mahomes, Mariucci and Garafolo spent a lot of time talking about his new Mahomes Magic Crunch breakfast cereal, which is flying off the shelves at Midwestern grocery stores — and being re-sold on eBay at exorbitant prices. They talked with Kelce about how many shoes he has in his closet and how many sports he can play. They spent time with Mathieu discussing his new nickname “T-5” (“T” for Tyrann and “5” for the sum of the numbers on his jersey) and how to pronounce his given name: it’s TIE-run — not tie-RAN.
That is the kind of banter that is reserved for championship-caliber teams.
But with all four Chiefs, the talk did eventually get around to football.
“I’ll tell you the one thing about this kid: he wants to be great — in a humble way,” Reid told Mariucci of his quarterback. “That’s the way he approaches [it] every day. You’d love it. He goes about his business. He wants you to feed him, he wants you to teach him, he wants you to to work him hard and coach him hard. [Offensive cooridnator] Eric Bieniemy does a phenomenal job with [quarterbacks coach] Mike Kafka — they’re rough on him and demand [performance] — and he loves every minute of it.”
Mariucci asked Mahomes about what he has tried to learn during his offeseason tutelage.
“Just not going for the dagger every single play,” Mahomes replied. “I think that’s the biggest thing — the whole field, not even just the red zone. I have to still keep that mentality and be aggressive and go out there and attack, [but] making sure that I take that checkdown and move the chains; take what’s given to me and not necessarily make a scramble [and] highlight play every single time.”
Mahomes said he’s learning that it’s not all about him.
“It’s not all about the statistics — how many touchdowns or how many yards you threw for in the game,” he said. “It’s about going out there and how you play the position — how you go out there to lead these guys and how you go out there and win football games.”
He then expanded on becoming the team’s offensive leader.
“I think just learning when to talk and when to let guys learn on their own is a big thing — especially in these training camp practices,” he said. “As you go out there and play games, you learn every personality on this team. I’ve built great chemistry with pretty much everybody. I know exactly how people respond to things, and try to get the best out of everyone.”
Mariucci asked Reid about the big offseason changes for the Chiefs defense.
“Listen, I think [former defensive coordinator] Bob Sutton is a phenomenal football coach. He’ll do great down in Atlanta. We had a change: [New defensive coordinator] Steve Spagnuolo came in and is installing the 4-3 [defensive scheme]; we were a 3-4 team before. It’s similar to what we did in Philadelphia [but] with a spin — his spin on it.
“He brings in great energy,” Reid continued. “You know how he operates: every day it’s upbeat and high. He’s got a good coaching staff that has worked with him before, so the coaches aren’t having to learn the defense. They know it — and they can jump in and go.”
Mathieu told Garafolo that he’s happy with the team he picked.
“I feel like a made a great decision coming to a young locker room with a lot of energy — a lot of juice. Obviously there are some things we’ve got to fix on the defensive side. I think [Spagnuolo] is doing a great job of just being hands-on with us.”
Mariucci wanted to know what Reid thought about losing Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Eric Berry in the offseason. Reid said it was just part of today’s game.
“Unfortunately, those were three of my favorite guys — they’re good people and good football players. But here comes Brett Veach. He retools it. He brings in Frank Clark. For Frank Clark, every play is his last play. He goes 100 miles an hour on everything. He brings this intensity and desire — and that’s infectious.”
“He’s just so high-intensity,” Mathieu said of Clark. “He’s just one of those guys that just wants to get after it. We’ve got to remind him sometimes that Pat’s on our team. He’s a great player — but we’ve got a lot of great players.”
One of those is Mathieu himself — another acquisition Veach made in the offseason. Reid told Mariucci that what he’s seen of his new safety has been very impressive.
”You watch his one-on ones, Mooch — his one-on-one pass coverage,” Reid pointed out. “His fundamentals and technique are phenomenal. His patience, his footwork, his leverage — all of those things — and then you add the instincts that he has, which are second to none.”
Mathieu said that facing such a good offense is helping the defense improve.
“I think the offense is giving us strength,” he said. “We’re building callouses. On each and every play, there are five legit weapons on the field that we have to account for — it’s not like we’re just honing in on Tyreek Hill or honing in on Travis Kelce. I think Sammy Watkins is probably looking the best I’ve ever seen him in the NFL, and I think the young guy Mecole Hardman will do some great things for us as well. We’ve [also] got some backs who can really do it out of the backfield. I think as a defense — especially as a leader of the defense — I try to get everybody around me to kind of rise up and really accept the challenge.”
The offense also sees a challenge — but according to Kelce, it comes from those who believe the 2018 Chiefs offense was a fluke that can’t repeat its performance this season. Kelce said the offense has accepted that challenge.
”We know we’re getting better — every single week, every single day we’re out here. With a few new plays — and coach Reid every bit as excited as he’s been since I’ve been here — I just feel a lot of motivation and a lot of determination to get to where we want to be.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “We definitely have the talent. We definitely have the coaches. We just have to go out there and play as one — be a unit, fly around and make plays. That’s the biggest thing.”