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Eric Bieniemy: Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill can be ready without practice

The Chiefs offensive coordinator discussed planning for a game while not knowing which players might be available.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While the Kansas City Chiefs activated two players from the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce remain in protocol and away from the team. Their playing status for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers remains unknown.

During his Thursday media remarks, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy fielded several questions about what the team might do without its superstar passing game targets — and what would happen if one or both players were to be activated late in the week.

“I’ll tell you what,” Bieniemy explained, “There’s going to be a whole lot of Kansas City Chiefs dressed up out there with uniforms — you’ll just be missing those two particular players. You know how we do things — the next man is up.”

Acknowledging the reality of how short-handed the offense may be, the former running back joked, “Hell, I might take a snap. It may not be good, but I’ll take a snap.”

One player who may be in line for a more significant role is rookie Noah Gray — currently the only tight end on the active roster. Bieniemy expressed confidence Gray is ready to step Sunday if needed.

“Noah has done a great job since he’s been here,” Bieniemy claimed. “I know during the offseason — when we first got him here — we were very excited about what he brings to the table. I thought he actually had a hell of a training camp, and he showed tremendous improvement.

“The kid loves to play the game. He’s sat in that room with Travis Kelce and has absorbed all of that knowledge — not only from him but from (Chiefs tight ends coach) Tom Melvin, who has coached Kelce up over the past few years. So, we’re not concerned or worried about what Noah’s not going to do; we just want him to go out there and maximize this opportunity — if that was to happen.”

Bieniemy expressed optimism that other in-house options could rise to the occasion if needed — especially with the aid of the team’s talented coaching staff.

“There’s always a contingency plan,” Bieniemy reassured. “I’m not going to give away all the nuts and bolts on what we’re going to do and how we have it planned. But we have everything mapped out. Our coaching staff has been together now for a number of years. We’re not going to leave ourselves out there naked and not ready to play. We’re going to go out there and make sure we can have the best game plan ready with the players we have available.

“Our guys do a tremendous job of teaching – that’s the thing that I love about this group. On top of that, we’ve got good players in this building that have been waiting for opportunities, if presented. It’s all about these players going out there knowing that, ‘If this is an opportunity, I’ve got to maximize it.’ But also too it’s about us having the faith and belief in them that they can go out there and do it. And that’s one thing we’re looking forward to.”

While much focus this week has been on who may need to step up in the absence of Pro Bowl talent, Hill and Kelce have a chance to clear COVID protocol before Sunday’s game under the league’s new rules. Bieniemy left no doubt about their potential status if they were cleared and could play, regardless of missing this week’s practices.

“If you know anything about Travis and you know anything about Tyreek, they’re out of the building, but they’re part of every meeting,” Bieniemy revealed. “On top of that, I guarantee you those guys are doing something on their own to make sure they’re in tune to what we’re doing. I’m sure if those guys can run, they’re on somebody’s treadmill running right now within their homes or on the bike doing whatever they need to do to get ready.

“My concern is just making sure that they’re healthy to come and play. If they’re healthy to come and play, we know what they can do and what they’ll bring to the table. These guys have been a part of our system now for a number of years. They will be ready and primed – if that opportunity presents itself.

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