In between taking in Marvel movies*, playing Call of Duty and learning what head coach Andy Reid has cooked up so far during the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2020 virtual offseason, tight end Travis Kelce spent time with the local Kansas City media on a Zoom conference call on Wednesday afternoon (watch the full video above or by clicking here).
Even though Super Bowl LIV happened more than three months ago now, Kelce shared that the feelings he had stemming from the team’s victory are still there.
“I think for the most part, it’s still been pretty surreal,” Kelce said. “I think the quarantine has made it almost like it was a dream because we haven’t been able to go out and see all our family members and visit everyone like I guess we would if it wasn’t like this. All and all, the biggest thing is that it’s very motivating. It’s motivating to be able to do it again. I’ve already got the competitive mindset to gear up and start this thing all over again — help recreate this team’s identity and moving forward, we’re just excited because we’ve got a lot of pieces coming back.”
The Chiefs will bring back 20 of 22 Super Bowl starters to defend their title, including every offensive contributor of note. While there could be an expectation that the championship-winning team might get complacent, Kelce does not seem to think it will happen to the Chiefs.
“It’s ingrained in this team to fight and to battle their tails off, to work their tails off,” he said. “Everybody that we played with last year on the Chiefs, they made it fun to come into the office. We all enjoyed being around each other, and I don’t see that chemistry or that camaraderie changing at all, especially with the leaders we have coming back.”
Kelce said those leaders include Reid, who has eased the difficulty of an offseason of video calls with strict scheduling, making it feel like not much has changed from what would be typical offseason work. At an in-person practice, a coach may interject during what could be a teaching moment.
Virtual workouts have turned the process into more of a classroom setting.
“It’s hard to just cut someone off virtually than to come in, chime in and speak your piece, [like] when you’re in a regular football office,” Kelce explained. It’s definitely a different way of learning. It’s a different way of teaching that guys are having to roll with the punches and deal with.
“With that, I think everything has been as smooth as it can be. All the technical difficulties that we’ve been having, but at the same time, we do have I would say a veteran group at this point. We grew a lot over the course of the season last year, and with that comes a lot of responsibility and a lot of accountability. I think guys are going into it with the right mindset because we’re all motivated to go and try to run this thing back.”
Kelce conceded that without the physical work, retaining plays is a greater challenge. But this isn’t foreign territory to him. Just last season, Kelce missed on-field offseason workouts as he recovered from ankle cleanup surgery.
“I didn’t get the physical work in because I was doing the rehab and everything for my ankle, but mentally, I’m always engaged in it,” added Kelce. “And I think I really learned that my rookie year — my rookie year when I had the knee surgery.”
Kelce had just one special-teams snap before losing his rookie season.
“I stuck around,” he said. “I didn’t just jump ship and leave and do rehab and then get out in the morning. I stuck around and wanted to hear these installs. I wanted to hear how coach Reid was teaching these plays, how coach (Eric) Bieniemy wanted the run game to work, how coach Andy Heck wanted us to block and identify defensive schemes, and all that helped me with the mentality of, ‘All right — start mentally with these things and then you can get out on the field and work physically, and I’ve had that mentality through every offseason. It’s a mental grind, but you have to know what you’re doing before you can go out and perform it.”
Without physical reps during the offseason program last year, Kelce still managed 97 catches for 1,229 yards and five touchdowns during the 2019 regular season and 19 catches for 207 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.
Mastering plays without reps sounds like an arduous process, but the Chiefs tight end has always found ways to persist dating back to his rookie year — and did so as recently as last en route to his first Super Bowl.
*For those interested regarding Marvel: Kelce said “I go to sleep thinking I’m Tony Stark now.” He has recently begun Guardians of the Galaxy.