It may be a common sports cliché — but on Friday morning, Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu tweeted a simple message in reference to the first day of padded-practice at Chiefs training camp.
In other words, one great unit playing at their best will force the other great unit to play better. As effective as the Chiefs defense proved to be towards the end of 2019, it’s clear which group has the tougher job in these training camp practices. Mathieu described what the defense is facing in practice to reporters on Friday.
“The competition level is very high,” Mathieu stated. “Obviously, we always talk about the standard we tried to set last season. Playing against our offense, it only builds us up, it only gets us to elevate our standards, not everyone in the NFL can cover [Chiefs wide receiver] Tyreek Hill, not everybody can run with [Chiefs wide receiver] Mecole [Hardman], not everyone can understand [Chiefs tight end] Travis Kelce’s route concepts.”
Mathieu didn’t even name all the weapons that could come at an NFL defense at any time. His teammate — starting cornerback Charvarius Ward — summed up Mathieu’s sentiment into his own tweet.
The @Chiefs got at least 6 receivers that can run low 4.4 or 4.3 on any given day. And they can run routes. These boys moving different.— Charvarius Ward (@itslilmooney) August 13, 2020
The newest member of the Chiefs secondary was also blown away by his counterparts’ speed on the practice field. Safety Tedric Thompson touched on the pace of play in his first experience at training camp with Kansas City.
“I think [Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid’s camp is just different,” Thompson admitted on Friday. “From the tempo, from the speed, on the offense you’re going against Tyreek Hill, you’re going against all these receivers running 4.2 or 4.1 [second 40-yard dashes] it feels like. The tempo of practice is just so up-tempo.”
Thompson echoed a shared feeling about the intensity of training camp under the 21-year head coaching veteran. Reid has always been known for tough camps — and he’s also known for his consistent success. The effort does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by his players.
“Nobody works as hard as the Kansas City Chiefs,” Mathieu declared. “I’ll tell you that right now…. It’s my third organization, I don’t think anyone works as hard as Andy Reid.”
Any NFL head coach can lay out a rough schedule for training camp to demand an extra amount of effort out of their players — but the results can vary depending on how the players respond. If the culture isn’t right, a tough camp may end with negative results.
The culture of trust and respect that Reid has built in Kansas City disallows for such negative effects. Instead, the players embrace the grind — and welcome healthy competition from teammates they respect.
“I think Travis [Kelce] is a special talent, he reminds me a lot of Larry Fitzgerald,” Mathieu revealed, a humbling comparison in any sense. “The competition that he provided for me coming into the league, and then me coming to Kansas City, Travis gives me the same competition day in and day out, truly makes me hone in on my craft, makes me focus on the little things, and that’s the only way you can compete against guys with that elite ability.”
With no preseason games, the competition with their offensive teammates will be the only preparation the Chiefs defense has for Week 1. While Mathieu acknowledged that NFL defenses will generally be behind NFL offenses due to the shortened offseason, he’s also soaking in the advantage that his unit has above any other.
“What other way to get prepared for [Houston Texans quarterback] Deshaun Watson and the [Baltimore Ravens quarterback] Lamar Jacksons of the world than the Kansas City Chiefs offense?” Mathieu asked, rhetorically. “We feel like we’re in a very fortunate position, the favor is on our side, we just have to be conscious of getting better each and every day.”