After missing out on these on-field practices last year amid the global pandemic, the Kansas City Chiefs were able to host rookie minicamp once again.
We all love to watch those minute-long clips of seeing first-year Chiefs in uniform and find things to overreact to. It’s tempting, but fans really shouldn’t take much from this weekend. The team will show the Cornell Powell highlight, and you’ll hear how Nick Bolton had an interception in the red zone, but there is not enough public information to learn about these first-year players from the three-day camp.
On the flip side, these practices were as important as any to the football careers of the players involved. This is their first impression of the coaching staff, and it sounds like they left their new head coach feeling good about them.
“What a good group,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid exclaimed to open his virtual press conference on Sunday. “It wasn’t as big a group as we normally have for the rookie minicamp, but boy did they work hard and do everything we asked them to do. Brett brought some good talent in here where we could have a good camp.”
There are no pads, there’s no contact and they weren’t even able to line up 11-on-11.
“We did a lot of seven-on-seven, we were able to hit the red zone today in seven-on-seven,” Reid revealed. “[We] didn’t have enough lineman to go through an actual team period but what we got done was tremendous, and these guys absorbed it, and it was a real pleasure to coach them.”
You could be fooled into thinking it was an unproductive weekend for the Chiefs — but we’d be dead wrong to believe that. There’s a foundation that these first-time professional football players are building, and it will carry into the rest of the offseason program.
“You want to go into training camp with an understanding of the new things you’re able to study and experiment with as coaches — and on the field as players — to make ourselves better this next year,” Reid thoroughly explained. “This gave them an opportunity to hit phase-two when the veterans are here with a base understanding of what’s going on.”
The coaches can set them up as much as possible for success in that next phase — but it will still be on them to rise to the occasion.
“They’re going to have to strap it on when the veterans get in because it goes fast,” Reid pointed out. “We’re already four installs into it and they’re going to have to catch up to the number of plays and everything — but at least they have a foundation.”
Reid went on to explain that phase-two is mostly lifting, but there are opportunities for on-field work with veterans and first-year players together. On top of that, the rookies are allowed additional time on the field to try and catch up with coaches.
Extra coaching is very necessary at times. On offense, coach Reid emphasized that offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterback coach Mike Kafka work closely with these first-time players. Some of them come more raw than others.
“When you start fresh — in one case, when you have a player who’s never called a player in a huddle, period — it takes a ton of time,” Reid shared. “Coach Kafka has the patience to do that and I thought he did a tremendous job with those young guys to get them right.”
As little as there is to take away from the outside, this is where nearly every NFL player ever has started their career. What an undrafted free agent shows to the team this weekend could be the determining factor in giving him a training camp invitation. How fast a rookie picks up the playbook this weekend could be the difference in playing or not playing in 2021.
We won’t know, but those types of thoughts are naturally happening on the inside after these players’ first experience on the practice field.