In his annual training camp press conference on Monday, Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan announced that the team is retiring the “Warpaint” mascot this season. But in total, his remarks showed that the Chiefs are doing the best they can to maintain their traditions.
“We’ll continue to take the path that we’ve taken,” assured Donovan. “As I said, we’re educating ourselves, educating our fans, creating opportunities to create awareness.
“We talk a lot about the drum. When you talk to the American Indian working group, the drum is a really strong point of pride with them. If you even have the conversation about, ‘Should we think about moving the drum or doing something different,’ they get pretty emotional about what it is.
“I go back to the story I’ve told before: when we started the drum, I didn’t know — we as an organization didn’t know — what the drum represented in their community, within their culture. And they educated us. And then we took the steps — the right steps, which they guided us on — to bless the drum, to treat it in a respectful way [and] to use that opportunity to educate people on what the drum really means to their culture.”
Whether Donvan’s efforts will eventually prove successful remains to be seen. But in the meantime, the Chiefs remain the Chiefs — and Arrowhead remains Arrowhead.
The Chiefs made three roster moves on Monday, waiving wide receiver Chris Finke with an injury designation and signing long snapper Drew Scott — a move made necessary when they placed long snapper James Winchester on the Reserve/COVID list.
Finke — who played his collegiate ball at Notre Dame — originally entered the NFL when he signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He spent time on their practice squad throughout last season. The Chiefs signed him in early May — apparently after seeing him catch balls at Pro Day workouts for quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Scott — a 26-year-old who played for the Kansas State Wildcats from 2013 through 2017 — is a player to whom the Chiefs gave a workout at the end of the 2019 season. He also spent some time with the Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys during their respective 2018 and 2019 training camps — but didn’t make it to either team’s regular-season roster.
Finke cleared waivers on Tuesday and was placed on the Chiefs’ Reserve/Injured list. Scott was waived on Friday after Winchester returned to the active roster.
Tuesday brought more transactions.
The team placed offensive lineman Kyle Long on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Long suffered a lower-leg injury back in mid-June, so this move was to be expected. Long joins safety Armani Watts on the PUP list for training camp.
As a reminder, players can be moved off the PUP list to the active roster at any time before the start of the regular season. If Long were to remain on the PUP list after the 53-man roster cut on August 31, he would have to miss the first six weeks of the season.
The Chiefs also placed tight end Nick Keizer on the non-football injury list, meaning he suffered an injury away from the team. It is worth noting that both Long and Keizer still count against the team’s 90-man roster, which now includes exactly 90 players.
We also learned that the Chiefs’ superstar quarterback now owns a piece of the local soccer team: Sporting KC.
Mahomes has often been seen at Sporting’s home field — most recently during the Gold Cup match between the United States and Canada on June 18, drawing an ovation from the crowd and posing for photos with United States (and Sporting) midfielder Gianluca Busio.
Game recognize game. ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/Tr7rKuKG5f— 404 LEGION PITTS SZN (@ATLSportsNut_21) July 19, 2021
Mahomes now has an ownership stake in two Kansas City sports franchises: Sporting and the Kansas City Royals, in which he invested in June of 2020. His fiancée Brittany Matthews also owns an interest in the Kansas City NWSL women’s soccer team.
As beat reporters tweeted updates from Wednesday’s first full-team practice at training camp, they could barely contain their excitement: the team’s sixth-round draft pick was running with the starters at right guard.
“It was consistency,” said Reid after practice when asked about how Smith got the initial nod. “He had done a nice job, not that it’s 100% perfect — young guy, but he showed enough to legitimately be in that position for right now, and then he’s got to compete, so we’ll see how all that goes when we get pads on.”
The 22-year-old Smith had been considered at the very least a day-two talent before he fell in the draft due to medical reasons. However, since general manager Brett Veach selected him, the Chiefs have been consistent in saying they felt he was healthy and ready to perform. There was no greater sign of that than Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck running him out to start camp.
Following Thursday’s practice, the star defensive tackle talked about getting more snaps at defensive end.
“It’s been fun. It’s been different,” smiled Jones. “I can do some positions now I never thought I could do, but it’s fun. I usually do Pilates during the offseason, but I started a little earlier this year for my flexibility — bending the edge is a little different from taking the turn on the 3-tech, so I wanted to be a little more flexible on bending the edge, and I was able to work on my flexibility a lot.”
Jones also began watching the film of the league’s top defensive ends.
“Instead of watching 3-tech, I’m kind of mismatching, watching a few 3-techs, a few D-ends,” explained Jones. “Cam Jordan, you know, guys who have set the stage for defensive ends in this league. Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, you know, those type of guys who have made a name for themselves at the position of defensive end.”
The team’s 2020 first-round pick spoke to the press as well — also talking about his offseason.
“I was working on hands, working on routes — because I knew I was going to be kind of pinpointed this training camp.”
And being in the system for another year has helped, too.
“Most definitely — especially having the same offense [and] the same scheme,” said the running back. “I got chewed out last year for saying Coach Reid’s playbook wasn’t the hardest — but I mean, I had three different offenses in three years at LSU. That’s just what I do, man. I’m a football player — and this is my job.”
Friday’s Chiefs news was mostly overtaken by an Instagram post that the former Kansas City linebacker put up on Thursday evening. John Dixon explained why Chiefs fans should avoid getting too excited about it.
On Thursday, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston — more recently a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts and now a free agent — posted Instragram photos showing himself working out while wearing a Chiefs helmet.
To see the photos, click the right arrow on the Instagram post to scroll through the photos. Houston is wearing the helmet in the third, fifth and sixth ones.
Does this mean that Houston — who was released by the team before the 2019 season after accumulating 78.5 sacks over an eight-year Kansas City career — might soon be returning?
Maybe. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
But despite Houston’s distraction, the Chiefs did practice in St. Joseph — and Mahomes talked about the third-year wide receiver’s progress.
Hardman explained three days ago that he is not feeling any pressure. And maybe that has come from a newfound attitude that his quarterback has clearly noticed.
“With Mecole, I don’t know the best way [to put it],” started Mahomes. “The maturity — of how he practices, of how he goes about his business — is completely different. We’ve always seen the talent. We’ve always seen the speed — the way he’s able to make plays happen — but him being so comfortable with the offense and with just how we do things, I think it’s going to take his game to a new level.”
And already in camp, the Mahomes-to-Hardman connection has proved fruitful. One of the best plays for the offense Friday was a 55-yard pass from Mahomes to Hardman on a would-be easy touchdown.
And then after Saturday’s practice, the head coach gave us more reason to think that in Week 1, there could be three first-year players on the rebuilt O-line.
Reid also had praise for (still) rookie Lucas Niang, who opted out of the 2020 season. After a year off, many presumed they wouldn’t be in football shape. During Saturday’s practice — which veteran right tackle Mike Remmers missed after suffering back spasms — Niang ran with the first team.
“He’s in great shape right now,” said Reid. “He worked his tail off this offseason and came back early. He and Thuney were in there every day working. It’s showing out here. He’s doing a nice job so far.”
And Reid pointed out that he’s not opposed to starting first-year players — at least not on that basis alone.
“Listen, I’ve started a number of rookies in there,” he reminded reporters. “They’ve done a good job. Sure... you’d like to have experience. But again, I’ve had success with rookies, too. So it’s kind of individually based — how they step up and communicate — and how willing the veteran players are to share [their experiences] with them.”