The Kansas City Chiefs signed nine-year veteran center Daniel Kilgore at the end of August. A slow starter — he didn’t start a game for the San Francisco 49ers until the fourth year after they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft — Kilgore had become a solid (although oft-injured) player during his last four seasons, which included two with the Miami Dolphins.
Without a team at the beginning of 2020’s NFL training camps, the 32-year-old Kilgore had other things on his mind.
“I was in Tennessee at my house with my family,” he drawled to Kansas City reporters on Wednesday. “We had just had our second daughter. Training camp had already started. There had been a few phone calls, and I told my agent it had to be the right situation. Well, there’s only one defending Super Bowl team — and they called. It’s hard to turn down coach Reid — a Hall of Fame coach — and this staff. Mr. (Brett) Veach, he had a good pitch.”
Kilgore said he “jumped right on board” after he heard what the team had to say.
But as you may recall, it took a while from the time we first knew Kilgore intended to come to the Chiefs for him to actually be signed to a deal. Part of that was the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — which had slowed free-agent activity to a crawl — but Kilgore revealed that he also wanted to be certain everything was good at home.
“I wasn’t in a training camp or with a team,” he explained, “so I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of with my family when I did come out. But [I was] obviously really excited to come out and play with these guys.”
Kilgore said that because he’s worked in similar offenses, the transition to the Chiefs’ offensive playbook hasn’t been that complicated for him — and that he had plenty of notice he would start in place of Austin Reiter for Monday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
“I found out the first of last week,” he said. “I was prepared for that; it’s kind of my role coming in here. Once I found out, Patrick Mahomes and I, we went right to work. I felt like the communication built throughout the week. When it came to game time on Monday night, we were ready to go.”
The game was not without slip-ups. Mahomes had to fall on the ball after a bad exchange in the second quarter — but in fairness to both quarterback and center, it was also raining pretty hard in Buffalo. And it wasn’t as if the changes in the offensive line were a net negative; behind it, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (and the rest of the Chiefs running backs) rushed for 245 yards — the most by any of Reid’s Chiefs teams.
“I think what worked well was our week of preparation,” said Kilgore. “You know, you’re always prepared as offensive linemen to be able to step in. When I was told I was going to be starting, I was ready. Then when game time came around, Mike Remmers moved to right tackle and Nick Allegretti had to step in. So I think the preparation [is] a testament to the coaches getting us prepared. I that’s really what set the tone for the game.”
And Kilgore said he had a great time.
“It was really fun,” he said. “It’s been a while for me to play ball. I came in late to training camp. Being able to get out there and play the first time — and to run the ball the way that we did — was really fun. It was great for the offensive line to be able to execute — and [for] Clyde Edwards-Helaire to come in. He had 94 yards, I think, after contact — so he had a huge part of it, too — but it was really fun.”
Afterward, head coach Andy Reid said that Kilgore had started the game in order to give Reiter a chance to rest a “tender knee.” But on Wednesday, he didn’t sound like someone who is contemplating making changes from Monday’s offensive line before this Sunday’s matchup with the Denver Broncos.
“It’ll probably be that way this week,” said the head coach. “But they’ll all be ready to go. We’ll just see how it rolls. I thought the guys did a good job up front. It was good, aggressive football. They did a nice job for the runners — [they] had space and utilized it with good vision, pressing the hole and doing all the fundamental things they do.”
There is, of course, the possibility that there will be a different change on Sunday: the addition of Le’Veon Bell to the team’s running backs. But if he remains the starting center, Kilgore said he wasn’t concerned about that.
“You don’t really pay too much attention to who’s back there,” he said. “For me, it’s always been about getting my guys in the right direction — making sure that we’re sound in our assignments and technique. No matter who’s back there, they’re going to make us right.”
But the soft-spoken 10-year veteran did finally allow himself to be a little giddy about it.
“It’s going to be exciting to see all of those guys work together.”