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Chiefs say they’re getting Clyde Edwards-Helaire ready to play

With Damien Williams option out, the rookie is projected to be the top back for the Chiefs in 2020.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When running back Damien Williams made his choice to opt out of the 2020 NFL season (and for good reason), the Kansas City Chiefs had little need to panic.

Back in late April, they had spent their first-round pick (No. 32 overall) on Clyde Edwards-Helaire — the 21-year-old who accumulated more than 1,800 scrimmage yards in his final year at LSU.

“We’re going to get Clyde ready to play, and he’s going to get ready to play,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told the media on Tuesday morning, “but we’re lucky that we have a pretty good nucleus of running backs there.”

In addition to drafting Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs took Darwin Thompson in the sixth round last year — and signed Edwards-Helaire’s college teammate, Darrel Williams, in 2018. They also acquired Patrick Mahomes’ college teammate, DeAndre Washington during the free agency period.

“It would be great to have Damien, but on the other hand, I think if you had to pick a position where you’ve got some talent, that’s a position we can work with, and we’re in pretty good position,” Reid added. “I think (general manger) Brett (Veach) and his guys did a great job with that — kind of stockpiling that position.”

Edwards-Helaire spoke to the media upon his arrival to Kansas City for training camp back on July 25.

“Ultimately, I’m just really happy to be here,” he said. “This is my happy place. I’ve been doing this – I’ve only been on the Earth for 21 years and I’ve been playing football ever since I was five, so this is what I do. I can’t wait, everything, the setup, everything about everything here is perfect for me and I can’t wait.”

During his three years at LSU, Edwards-Helaire had two different offensive coordinators, so he adjusted on the fly while undertaking his studies. Those circumstances have apparently made taking on Reid’s playbook — which is typically a challenge for newcomers — “easy” in Edwards-Helaire’s mind.

“I think the virtual part — he took it serious and studied,” Reid said of Edwards-Helaire. “And then he’s a sharp kid. He’s been blessed upstairs there so he picks things up fairly easy. We’ll overload him here once the veterans get in.”

Under the ramp-up period schedule, Reid said that should be in four days time — or sometime around Saturday.

“We’ll see how he does. I wouldn’t expect anything different than what I’ve seen now. He’s a proud kid that wants to make it right and is willing to work to do it on and off the field, which is important... We’re going to get him ready to play, and he’s wired that way. The more you guys and ladies get to know him, I think you understand his maturity and how he’s wired.”

But the Chiefs knew all that back in April.

“I think because of the type of offense that we are, I do [think he could be a feature back],” Veach said at the time. “I think the way we can spread teams out and make them play east and west, and the threat of our vertical passing game, and again, this kid’s low center of gravity, his ability to make people miss.

“I think just the way our offense is constructed I think this guy will thrive in it, and I think he’ll be able to handle the workload.”