Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach met local media members for a Zoom conference call on Monday (watch in full here), and he later joined 610 Sports Radio’s “Fescoe in the Morning” for an exclusive call.
One of the topics that came up on the radio interview were the statuses of offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, would-have-been-rookie offensive lineman Lucas Niang and running back Damien Williams entering the 2021 season. All three players opted out of the 2020 season by way of provisions established by the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
With 2020 in the books, it sounds like all three are poised for a 2021 return.
“We’ve had conversations with all of their agents,” Veach said, via 610 Sports Radio. “Lucas was a guy — because he was a draft pick — that I had texted periodically throughout the season. I’d say once every two or three weeks we were touching base with him. I know Lucas, LDT and Damien — they all plan to be back, and I think they’re all excited to get back to what they do and get into the routine and be back in the locker room with the guys and have fun playing football... We’ve been in communication with their agents and based on some conversations that I had with Niang personally and the conversations I’ve had with LDT’s agents and Damien’s agents, I know all three guys are looking forward to coming back and getting the 2021 season started on time.”
Duvernay-Tardif was the first player in the league to opt out of the season, deciding to use his medical degree to help fight coronavirus on the front lines in his native Canada. Williams opted out to be there for his mother, who had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer.
Niang also opted out — but it’s worth wondering how much he would have played during his rookie season. The TCU product underwent surgery to repair a torn hip labrum back in October of 2019, and it seemed like 2020 might have been an unofficial redshirt year for Niang.
Of course, with how thin the Chiefs were along the line in Super Bowl LV, there is a case to be made that Niang would have been among the starting five.
Now they will turn their attention to 2021.
“I think the first part is getting them in the building and just doing baseline testing,” explained Veach. “They will get their physicals, and they will get time with the training staff and the weight room staff, so they’ll assess where they are. You and I know how this works — everyone says they’re working out. And some guys, the workouts are more intense than what they would do here and some guys say they’re working out, but the workouts aren’t where they need to be, so I think the first thing you do is get them in house, go through the medical, get the physical and get baseline foundations of where they are strength-wise, cardio-wise and our guys will do that, and then we’ll put a plan together... some guys will maybe have a little bit of a longer lead-up time, but some guys that come in a little bit better shape and they’re more in tune to where their bodies were last year — probably less of that type of lead-in time, so it’s really dependent on what the medical staff and the strength training staff say.”
The players’ voluntary opt-outs included a $150,000 salary advance and no accrued or credited season, so the contract number they would have had in 2020 carries over to what will be 2021.
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