As the Kansas City Chiefs labored to rebuild their offensive line during the offseason, some of the biggest unanswered questions surrounded offensive tackle Lucas Niang, who chose to opt out of his coronavirus-plagued rookie season.
Would he come back in football shape? Could he be well-versed enough in the offense to become a starter at right tackle as the season begins? Has he been preparing to play on both ends of the line? And if so... how much?
Technically still a rookie, he was one of those participating in the team’s rookie minicamp over the weekend. And we got answers for some of these questions.
“He’s done a nice job in this camp,” head coach Andy Reid said of Niang during a virtual press conference on Sunday afternoon. “He’s a big man — like really, a big man — that has these beautiful feet. So I look forward to getting him back in the pads in training camp: moving around, doing what offensive linemen do — the real football part of it.”
For his part, Niang — a man of very few words — said that he had worked hard to be ready for his return to the Chiefs.
“I was just working out four days a week — whether that be on the field or the weight room stuff — but I did a lot of football stuff week-in and week-out,” he said of his year off. “I was watching, so I wanted to get back out there — and stay sharp.”
He said that during this period, he remained in contact with both his teammates and coaches, checking in every week or two. And that in his workouts, he worked at both tackle and guard — on both sides of the line.
Reid said that Niang’s work had paid off.
“He actually came in better shape than he probably was last year,” noted the head coach. “That’s a plus. You know he’s been doing stuff. So he came in — and it looked like he got right back into it. For what we asked him to do, he was fine.”
Because of the limited number of players in the minicamp — partly because the league had limited each team to just five tryout invitations — there were limits on what players like Niang were able to do.
“The thing with this [minicamp] is there was no offense versus defense with the lines,” Reid told reporters. “So we didn’t have one-on-ones or any of that.”
But Reid also noted that Niang had been through all of that during last season’s offseason — which is an important point to remember. Niang opted out on August 6, so he had already been through the entire offseason program up to that point — including the first week of training camp. Niang said that making it that far last year has helped him this time around.
“All the plays — all the thinking — is way easier this year,” he said. “I could focus more on my technique because I knew my assignments faster — having been through it one time.”
“He’s a very intelligent kid,” Reid reminded reporters. “I think you guys know that. He’s very intelligent. Just getting him back in the swing of things, [it] looked like he did that well.”
And when asked, Niang flatly denied that he was having to work through any rust.
“No, sir,” he declared. “It felt great to be back on the field. I’ve been around — working out — and I couldn’t wait to get back; I was working when I was home, too. So it was good to be back.”