With no preseason games, Week 1 is shaping up to be the first time NFL rookies experience live, full-speed tackling or blocking from an opponent. At Kansas City Chiefs training camp, one defensive veteran made sure his rookie teammate got a preview of what is to come.
“That’s football,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy began when asked about the big hit that defensive end Frank Clark laid on rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Saturday’s practice. “Frank [Clark] got him, he tagged him a little bit, welcomed the rookie in. That’s part of the game.”
Edwards-Helaire was a popular subject for questions asked to Bieniemy during Saturday’s press conference — and it’s obvious why: the first round pick’s inaugural snaps as an NFL player will be as a featured back in a big-time, regular-season game. The former running backs coach knows better than anyone whether Edwards-Helaire will be ready or not.
“The kid’s got a great look about himself,” Bieniemy noted. “He works hard and takes a tremendous amount of pride in everything that he does. He’s in there with a good group, (running backs) coach Deland [McCullough] is doing a hell of a job of getting those guys going.”
The team’s offensive coordinator was not the only person that praised the young running back. Star wide receiver Tyreek Hill has also seen a few rookies come in and immediately succeed in the Chiefs offense over the years.
On Saturday, he told reporters to prepare for another first-year breakout.
“I’m really impressed,” Hill stated. “He comes in, he’s a very quiet dude, he works hard and he fits right in with this offense. Over time, you won’t even be able to tell he’s a rookie, cause he works that hard and wants to get better. He’s always asking questions like, ‘Reek, what do you think about this?’ So I really like Clyde.”
In Bieniemy’s rookie season as an NFL running back with the San Diego Chargers, he only earned three carries for the year. So when reporters asked him about Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s comparison of Bieniemy to Edwards-Helaire, the newly-turned 51-year-old coach laughed it off.
“Well if coach (Reid) said that, I’m going to take that as the highest of compliments, cause he’s a lot quicker than me and can do a whole lot more than what I did coming out.”
The comparison was made as a compliment by Reid because it’s no mistake that Bieniemy has become the leader of the league’s best offense. He knows what it takes to be a successful weapon in a high-powered unit — and he knows how to take young players there as well.
“The biggest thing I tell all the guys, whether it’s Clyde [Edwards-Helaire] or somebody that’s down the line, we want all of our guys to go out there and play hard and play fast, have a sense of urgency. If he makes a mistake, it’s OK, we’ll correct it. The thing that we want to do is eliminate the mistakes moving forward.”
A rookie is going to make mistakes. Remember when rookie running back Kareem Hunt fumbled his first career carry, then proceeded to have one of the greatest running back performances in team history?
That happened because the team trusted him to keep playing full-speed, even after a mistake. That supreme confidence in a young player’s ability is important — and it’s clear that they feel a similar way about Edwards-Helaire.