The Kansas City Chiefs are getting ready to play their 14th game of the season this Sunday. If they want to reach their ultimate goal of repeating as Super Bowl champions, they will be playing at least five more games before the season’s end. Members of the Chiefs that played the last two seasons may be used to such a lengthy schedule — but rookies sometimes struggle with the additional action.
College football schedules usually span to 12 or 13 games — which has created a narrative for first-year NFL players: “the rookie wall.”
Their bodies aren’t used to playing a longer season, and it causes fatigue that limits a player’s effectiveness as they hit the most important stretch of a team’s season.
Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is aware of the narrative — but he’s not concerned about it affecting him.
“Le’Veon and I was talking about it today at practice... I really don’t feel like I would hit a rookie wall,” Edwards-Helaire assured in his Friday presser. “I think it’s more of a mental thing, I think it’s about how everybody else gets in your head. I’m just here playing football. I got hit with a lot of stuff early on, and they saw I could take it all in. I’ve been in a lot of other pressured moments in a long season, so I just don’t feel like I’m going to hit a rookie wall.”
Edwards-Helaire is especially prepared for a season longer than the typical college team’s. Last year, he was a key player on the 15-0, national champion LSU Tigers team. Their campaign actually started a week before the NFL’s regular season and spanned all the way to January 13, 2020.
That experience has likely contributed to Edwards-Helaire’s confidence in him avoiding that wall — but the Chiefs have assisted in keeping him fresh as well. They brought in veteran running back Le’Veon Bell to lighten his load. So much so, that Edwards-Helaire was able to sit out an entire game when he was feeling ill leading up to the Week 13 game against the Denver Broncos.
Edwards-Helaire hasn’t taken his new relationship with Bell for granted.
“Since he came in, I’ve really just been picking up knowledge,” Edwards-Helaire admitted. “He’s been in the league for eight years, so anything that he can give me on the field, off the field. We’re in the same room so it’s not like we aren’t talking to each other. We talk more than often so anything I can pick up from him, I’m picking his brain.”
Even with Bell to spell him, Edwards-Helaire has taken the second-most snaps of all rookie running backs, has the third-most rushing attempts and the second-most receptions.
He is as prime a candidate to hit the rookie wall as any other first-year player when taking wear-and-tear into account — but he believes it’s more about his mentality, and he’s confident he has the right mindset to avoid any setback.