Kansas City Chiefs veterans descended upon Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, on Monday afternoon, while quarterbacks, rookies and injured players have been around since Friday. Among the veterans to speak to the media via Zoom was linebacker Anthony Hitchens, ready for his first live contact since Super Bowl LV.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s been a while. It’s been, since what? Early February, so anytime you can get out there — and we’re blessed to be able to do this for a job — so anytime you get the pads on and get out there and running and hitting and having fun, it’s always a good thing.”
Hitchens enters a critical year in 2021 — his eighth season in the NFL. Back in 2018, the Chiefs signed Hitchens to a five-year deal, including a 2022 salary-cap number of more than $12.5 million (via Spotrac).
It has thus been suggested that despite Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo praising Hitchens as the team’s “glue,” he could be a surprise cut candidate in the future. That suggestion might have only been reinforced when the Chiefs selected a local Missouri product, Nick Bolton, with 58th overall pick in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Still, Hitchens says he does not focus on proving his worth to the coaching staff or organization. For him, it’s more about internal pride.
“I don’t even think about things like that because I just prove it to myself,” said Hitchens. “It’s way more deeper than proving it to coaching staff and organizations. It’s more just about my personal goals. I have my own goals. I don’t share them at all with no one for a reason, and that’s just what that is. Every year, I need to prove to myself that I can play. It’s not so much proving to organizations or coaching or either other players in the league. So yeah, it’s going to be no different from my past year. Just work. That’s all you can do is just work, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Red zone remains an emphasis for the #Chiefs defense, confirmed LB Anthony Hitchens. Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo have plan in place for more work there this training camp.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 26, 2021
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been running more than I normally would run in the offseason, working out four to five days out of the week, so really no downtime. I think our last practice was on Thursday, I started right back up on Monday, so didn’t really take no time off. Just been working to improve for myself and as a group, so I’ve just been working.”
Hitchens’ reasoning for slimming down is twofold — he is 29, and teams around the league — including his own — have been trending more and more in the direction of spread and pass-heavy.
“We call that 11 personnel, when there’s three receivers out there,” said Hitchens. “For me, I turned my tape on and I played my best ball around where I’m at right now (at 231 pounds). There’s times where I can get too light, and there’s sometimes where I can put on some pounds, so I got to find that happy medium to where I can play rangy but also play in the box. And sometimes, some people can fix that in one year, two years, three years. So it’s just a feel for it. I might get into camp and I’m like, Nah, nah. I have to put my weight back on.’
“I’m just going to play with it. We have a little time before the first game, so I’m going to play with it, but I don’t want to be too high or too low on my way, so I try to pick a middle weight and go from there, so 231 to 230 is where I’m going to shoot for throughout the whole season.”
The Chiefs are scheduled to hold their first full-team practice of training camp on Wednesday.