The Kansas City Chiefs posted what could be considered the first visuals of the 2020 season to their social media channels on Thursday night: head coach Andy Reid, wearing a face shield, giving his opening speech to the full team.
The beginning of the look-in went how you would expect: it is a new year, and we can actually run this thing back — if we do the right things.
REID: “With all this COVID stuff, dedicate yourself to that. Keep your faces covered, man, and let’s not shut down the NFL. We have all the talent in the world right here and we want to take full advantage of it.”
In other words, having Patrick Mahomes, the best asset in the league, won’t matter if he lands on the COVID list. The magic general manager Brett Veach was able to pull off in the offseason by bringing 20 of 22 Super Bowl starters back will seem pointless if 10 of them can’t play for four weeks.
If the Chiefs are sick, the best roster won’t be the best roster.
Kansas City was the first organization to have its IDER (Infectious Disease Emergency Response) plan approved by the NFL. The Chiefs detailed that plan’s measures in a Kingdom Short special released Wednesday night.
“As far as the set up here and feeling like we’re in a safe environment, I think people have gone to great ends to do this,” Reid told reporters last Saturday. “We’re as safe as you can be here. The dedication and staying disciplined when you leave this facility will be important.”
The facility — the impermanent training camp at Arrowhead Stadium — is the NFL’s version of the NBA and NHL’s bubble, which (to this point) has proven successful. The problem in the NFL — and for the Chiefs — is that the players will leave their bubble every day.
“When you’re here, this is a safe environment, so you have to continue that when you leave here,” Reid added. “That ends up being important, and we have a plan for that too that we’ll talk to the players about.”
As the days continue on, it has become apparent this point of emphasis will be stressed league-wide. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden — Reid’s close friend from their Packers days — calls it “crushing the virus.” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin refers to “off-field actions detrimental to the team.”
Every coach will have his own spin, but the point should sound uniform: don’t be dumb outside the damn bubble.
If it comes to it, teams will reportedly be able to issue fines for “reckless behavior” as necessary. That could include eating out in restaurants — or something as simple as riding in an Uber. It is by no means ideal, but that will be part of the job in 2020.
During Thursday’s Chiefs media availability, it was apparent that message had already been heard loud and clear by two of the team’s Super Bowl LIV captains.
“We just tell the young guys just be smart,” explained linebacker Anthony Hitchens. “It’s just not about you, it’s about the team. A lot of us have families and wives and kids and if you go out and do something you’re not supposed to, it can affect other people’s families. We have a lot of good people here. (Brett) Veach and coach Reid have been doing a really good job getting good guys here, so I got all the confidence in the world everybody will go home and be smart and just ready to work locked in six to seven more months straight, and let’s play hard and let’s play safe. ”
“It’s accountability,” tight end Travis Kelce added. “The guys coming in this office, they know what this team is capable of. It shows in what we did last year and who all we have coming back, which means we have just about every single leader that we had in this locker room—outside of two that respectively decided to opt out (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Damien Williams). I think we’re as set and ready leadership-wise as we’ve ever been. The tone has to be set and the accountability has to be set amongst all the guys in the locker room that there’s a virus out here, it’s not something we can play around with, it’s something that we have to take seriously.
“Guys are going home to their families. We have kids and wives and beautiful families that we have to make sure that we’re all being held accountable for. So, like coach Reid said, just making sure that you’re doing the right things for the guys around you. But 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.”
Kansas City is fortunate to have Reid in such a unique year — even before his Super Bowl win, his words were gospel to his players. Now, forget it.
If the Chiefs are to run it back, carelessness is not an option.