As youthful of a spirit as Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has, he stands today as one of the oldest players on the team. He turns 31 in October, one of only a handful of players over the age of 30. He has been an established, veteran leader for multiple seasons — but he may be facing his toughest challenge in leadership yet.
This unprecedented offseason will take more effort than usual from everyone involved in order to play the 2020 NFL season. Kelce summed the responsibility of Chiefs players into one word:
“It’s accountability,” Kelce stated. “The tone has to be set, the accountability has to be set amongst all the guys in the locker room. There’s a virus out here, it’s not something we can play around with, it’s something we have to take serious. Guys are going home to their families, we have kids, wives, beautiful families that we have to make sure we’re all being held accountable for.”
Two of Kelce’s teammates — right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running back Damien Williams — have already decided to opt out for the 2020 season for their own respective reasons. Even with the absence of two integral, veteran players from 2019, Kelce is confident in the voices they will have in the locker room.
“I think we’re as set and ready leadership wise as we’ve ever been... like [Kansas City Chiefs Head] coach [Andy] Reid said, ‘Just make sure you’re doing the right things for the guys around you.’
“I don’t see much of a problem because a lot of that is already set in the culture that coach Reid and the leaders on this team have set.”
Kelce may have other leaders around his age on the team, but he is the lone veteran in his position room. The players vying for the chance to play behind the All-Pro tight end are all under the age of 25.
The competition between these players will be tightly contested in training camp — but at the front of the line, Kelce will only have to focus on his own ability.
“We have a great room,” Kelce proclaimed. “[Tight ends] Coach Tom Melvin always gets the guys ready to go. I know he’s always harping on me to sharpen the tools. Get better at your strengths but also the weaknesses... getting better is a year-long thing, a career-long thing, you can never be satisfied with where you are.”
The lack of a preseason will not only affect training camp battles like the one happening behind Kelce — but it will also prevent the players that do make the 53-man roster from having any game day preparation before the regular-season opener. That in mind, Kelce feels fortunate to have the coaching staff they do.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting transition, especially for the young guys,” Kelce admitted. “The guys that haven’t had quite the reps to feel out how fast the game is really going to be. But I think coach Reid does an unbelievable job at getting us ready for our first game.
“It’ll have to be modified a little bit, but I have all the trust in the world in coach Reid and the coaches to get all these guys ready for that Week 1 opportunity vs. Houston.”
Kelce also went on to reveal what he believes will be the most significant disadvantage of a preseason with no exhibition games.
“The biggest thing I think we’re going to miss out on is defensively, being able to tackle. You can try to simulate it as much as you can but until the bullets are flying you really don’t know what a guy’s going to do instinctually.”
Kelce was also asked about Black Lives Matter, a movement that he personally believes in and feels strongly about. He expressed his complete support of the movement before revealing how the Chiefs organization has reacted to it.
“It’s something I’ve been very passionate about since I’ve been into the league. It’s almost a responsibility that I take upon myself to show the support and show the want for change... That’s why I love Kansas City and this organization, because Clark Hunt and our president Mark Donovan have done an unbelievable job of reaching out to the players on this team to try and find something that makes sense and is meaningful to this community, and to the players in this locker room and I love them for it.”
Earlier this offseason, it was reported that Kelce gave input on the Super Bowl LIV championship ring design. When asked about it, the tight end known for fashion off the field downplayed his contribution.
“You can say I was instrumental in it but they kind of just threw it on the screen and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s nice. I would like one of those. Yes.’ It’s a beautiful ring from what I saw.”
As for when they’ll receive them, Kelce had no information — but he wasn’t really worried about it.
“I think we’re all just focused on going and getting another one this year.”