If there was ever an offseason where a player might be excused from showing up to training camp out of shape, it would be 2020.
The global coronavirus pandemic has completely disrupted NFL players’ ability to work out regularly or with teammates; coaches are likely expecting some players to report with a lack of conditioning.
But It’s not surprising to hear that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes believes he won’t be needing any excuses.
“I’m in great shape,” Mahomes proclaimed to reporters on Saturday. “The best shape I’ve ever been coming into camp.”
The reigning Super Bowl MVP didn’t want to say he’d be fully prepared if the season started tomorrow, but he clearly feels good about the work he has put in over his busy summer. Even after a completely virtual offseason, he said that he doesn’t feel “behind” on the football field.
But the virtual portion of the offseason is now over. The coaching staff, quarterbacks and rookies are now at Arrowhead Stadium for training camp. The health and well-being of all involved with the team has never been more important. After his initial experience at the team facility, Mahomes came away impressed.
“There’s gonna be a little concern, you’d be lying to say you have no concern,” Mahomes admitted. “But at the same time, as I’ve been throughout the facility now — last night and a little bit today — seeing all the protocols and all the safety things that Rick [Burkholder] and all these guys have put forth, it’s made me feel even better than I thought coming in, knowing how much the NFL and the NFLPA has put in to make sure that we can be as safe as we possibly can be.”
Aside from the logistics of this NFL season, Mahomes made it clear that he’s itching to get going.
“I’m ready to get back after it, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Once we hit this first day, it’s all starting over — and now it’s about doing it over again.”
It has become obvious that the Chiefs are all-in on repeating as Super Bowl champions — and some players couldn’t help but publicly imagine further into the future. In the past week, defensive tackle Chris Jones targeted five or more championship rings before wide receiver teammate Tyreek Hill ratcheted the goal to seven.
These self-set expectations didn’t bother the star quarterback. He has seen the work his fellow Chiefs have put in. He also expressed his own belief that it shows their commitment to the long-term vision of the organization.
“You love the goals — that they want to win championships and they don’t want to be average,” he said.
Mahomes isn’t alone in observing the effort these confident veterans are putting in. Head coach Andy Reid knows that’s how this team is — and warned his first-year players about that work ethic.
“I mentioned this to the rookies,” Reid said. “Take your notes. Make sure you study. Make sure you come prepared to meetings and to practice. One reason is, when you see the veterans do this, that’s how they roll. So you better come in ready to roll — and if you don’t, you’re going to fall by the wayside.”
Reid was referencing their on-field work — but Mahomes’ workload has increased off the field. Even with everything the fourth-year player has on his plate, he has also become the team’s player representative to the NFL Players Association. Since longtime punter Dustin Colquitt was cut during the offseason, Mahomes said he has “basically” filled the spot for the Chiefs — and Colquitt even helped him adjust and get comfortable in the position.
“I thought [the union] really pushed and got the things that gave us the comfortability to approve the proposal that was sent to us yesterday,” said Mahomes of the just-completed deal that allowed NFL training camps to start on time, “and I thought they really laid it out for every single person — so everybody understood before we made the vote.”
Speaking of voting, Mahomes updated the press on his work with voting registration in the community, explaining that conversations between himself, Chiefs president Mark Donovan and owner Clark Hunt have continued. They hope to have a finalized plan at the end of this week. Mahomes said the goal is to “empower everybody to have their voices heard.”
Mahomes finished up by speaking about the National Basketball Association’s Black Lives Matter initiative — and the efforts to bring justice to Breonna Taylor.
“[NBA Players are] doing a great job of being examples of going back and being with the sport they love — but also staying with the movement and not letting their love for the sport affect their mind and motivations of supporting the movement.”
Mahomes has become the face of professional sports in the United States of America — and sports are having a huge impact on our society. Kids look up to professional athletes from the first time they can pick up a ball — and players can have a significant impression on a child’s adolescence.
In this moment, is there any better role model than Mahomes?
Respectful at every interaction. Active in the community. Working hard in all aspects of his career. Standing up for what he believes is right.
In a time where sports don’t feel important, Kansas City’s quarterback may be one of the best role models there is.