Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens spoke to the media via Zoom conference call on Thursday — after what was the team’s first week of organized team activities (OTAs). Hitchens, who is officially listed at 6 feet and 235 pounds, looked noticeably slimmer, something he explained had been his intention during this offseason.
“I’m trying something different, to be honest,” said Hitchens. “I am getting a little more lean. I’m going to try to lean out a little more spring ball and then as camp comes and as the season comes, I can put the bulk and the muscle and getting that extra lift in, so yeah, I’m doing more lean.”
The Chiefs won’t play a preseason game until mid-August — and Hitchens knows that before then, his Chiefs defense will train by going head to head with perhaps the best offense in football.
“We all know this is a spread-type of offense and a lot of guys are running, criss-crossing, Tyreek Hill’s running down the field and things like that,” explained Hitchens. “Yeah, I got a little more lean, and I’m just watching the body fat. It’s no secret. I am in year eight. I can’t do what I did three-four years ago, so yeah. I’m just trying to lean out, watch my diet, and just keep working. Try different things and hopefully, it works for my body. Everybody’s different, so this is something different that I’m trying this year, it’s lean more and add the bulk as we add both reps and practice and games and things like that.”
The linebacker’s newfound strategy is reminiscent to that of the franchise’s all-time leading tackler Derrick Johnson — and his efforts as he grew older in the league. Especially toward the end of his playing career, Johnson would come into camp lighter in weight.
Our late, great friend Terez Paylor covered his efforts for The Kansas City Star back in March of 2016.
Johnson, who turns 34 in November, is optimistic he’ll be able to continue his strong play this year and beyond. He’s lost a ton of weight since the beginning of his career, and counteracts the effects of aging by remaining light and spry.
While he played his first two years at about 252 pounds, Johnson said he played last season at 234 and felt great. He said his target weight for 2016 is 232.
“I mean, lighter is better for me,” Johnson said. “The older you get, the less weight you have to have, because it’s just how life is. When you get older, you’ve got to lose some weight.”
Hitchens is far from 34 — he will only be 29 when the season begins — but his efforts are tried and true. He wants to remain an impact player into his 30s and beyond — and it seems he is taking some steps to do so.