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Deandre Baker is ‘close to 100%,’ wants to prove he ‘deserves to be here’

As he closes in on a full recovery from his 2020 injury, the young cornerback is ready to help the Chiefs however he can.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the third season of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs, it has become pretty clear that the team does not invest a lot in their cornerbacks. They proved it over the first two seasons — but this year, it’s become even more apparent.

In the draft and free agency, the Chiefs skipped the position altogether. They did trade a sixth-round pick for former Minnesota Vikings defensive back Mike Hughes — but then decided not to re-sign veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland on a cheap one-year deal.

These actions point to the team willing to trust the inexperienced group of cornerbacks they have — including a former first-round pick who is now entering his third NFL season.

Deandre Baker was signed by the Chiefs late in 2020. He actually played in the Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, in which the team rested most of the starters. After some legal troubles during his two years with the New York Giants, Baker is grateful for the opportunity the Chiefs have given him.

“It means a lot to me that the Chiefs gave me another chance,” he told reporters after Sunday’s practice in St. Joseph, Missouri. “They’re a phenomenal organization. I’m just here to work — and I’m happy to be here.”

Unfortunately, Baker was unable to finish the one Chiefs game he started; a fractured femur that he suffered early in the second half ended Baker’s season just as soon as it started. But the team stuck by him, re-signing him immediately after the season.

Seven months later, Baker is nearly ready to get back on the field in a full capacity.

“I’m pretty close to 100%,” he said.

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Baker said that late in the season, being unable to contribute had been difficult.

“[Not being able to play down the stretch in the playoffs] was definitely frustrating,” he admitted. “But Rick Burkholder and his staff get in and work every day — and they got me to here. Now I’m back on the field, ready to work.

“The hardest part was not being out there with the team, helping the guys get better in practice and being able to help the team. The best part is being back out there, back on my feet; I can run and do things I wasn’t able to do a couple of months ago.”

Even from a small sample size, there were good things to take away from Baker’s only playing time in Kansas City. He totaled four tackles, a sack and a pass defended against the Chargers. On the surface, it’s an impressive box score — and Baker recalled what he took away from the game.

“There’s a few things I could’ve done better — but overall, I feel like I played well,” he reflected. “I could’ve done a lot of things better. Just a little bit of technique things I have to clean up — that I’m working on today.”

This offseason, he hasn’t been able to practice up until these first few days of training camp. But he said that even though he wasn’t on the field, OTAs and minicamp helped him.

“I gained a lot,” he said of the summer sessions. “I was in the meeting room and at practice with them, so I got a lot of mental reps. So whenever I get on the field, I’ll be able to help the team — and I’ll be fluid in everything that we do.”

And Baker will have a chance to contribute. It should be a pretty open competition for cornerback snaps behind Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed. Rashad Fenton has played well, but he was a sixth-round selection in the same draft in which Baker was taken 30th overall.

The soon-to-be 24-year-old cornerback just wants to prove he’s worth the time and investment the Chiefs have put in him.

“I just want to help the team, show the guys that I want to be here,” he assured his listeners. “Come out there and work — and show them I deserve to be here.”