Three public practice sessions remain before Kansas City Chiefs training camp comes to an end at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph — and there will be two more preseason games following Saturday night’s opening exhibition contest on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
But after the Chiefs wrapped up their final public practice before Saturday’s game, it felt more like the end of the offseason. In some measure, this might have been because the Chiefs put their team leaders in front of the press: quarterback Patrick Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
“I think we’re always focused,” declared Mahomes of the team’s mood. “But you can definitely feel the intensity of practice. Offensive and defensive sides of the ball are competing every single rep. We understand that we didn’t end the season the way we wanted to last year, so we have to find a way to get better — so we can find a way to end it how we would like this year.”
For Mahomes, part of that intensity comes from playing against the three-time All-Pro safety.
“It’s great to be able to go up against Tyrann,” he said. “He’s going to give you every single look possible — that’s the best thing. He’s going to try and extend — kind of like you hear about quarterbacks trying to push it and try to get it into these tight windows — he’ll try to bluff a blitz, get back into coverage and be in the right coverage at the right time. Or he’ll try to hit a blitz from in deep coverage and really not show the quarterback.”
But Mahomes said that in the end, that’s beneficial to him.
“It helps me out a ton,” he said, “because he kind of puts me on my toes. He makes sure that I’m ready for all types of different things. He’s truly a special talent that does a lot of great things on the football field.”
Mathieu said that playing against Mahomes was helpful to him, too.
“It’s difficult,” he acknowledged. “He’s not an average quarterback. He could put the ball anywhere — any spot on the field. But I think [that] just us kind of working off each other — obviously competing with each other — the mental gymnastics that we kind of go through pre-snap and post-snap, trying to to find [what] each other are doing, I think it’s going to make both of us sharper.”
They both said they have some things they’d like to see while their units are on the field on Saturday night. Mahomes is keeping his expectations pretty low.
“Going out there and executing in and out of the huddle — making the right calls, getting the ball in my hand, making some plays happen,” he said. “You always like to score. But at the end of the day, I think if we’re in the communication and the procedures both in and out of the huddle with so many new guys — especially on that offensive line — I think that would be a win for me.”
For himself, Mahomes returned to a common theme from this offseason: being better in the pocket.
“I always try to stay within the pocket — especially during training camp,” he admitted. “I always feel like I can scramble — and that stuff can happen; we work on making it happen throughout the game — but it’s [about] working through the pocket, [going] through the reads and [seeing] how the play’s working.”
Mathieu is also hoping to see the defensive unit communicate well.
“Any time the defense takes the field, you want to keep the other team out of the end zone,” he allowed. “You obviously want to see the young guys kind of step up [and] make plays. But I think the most important thing is [that] you want to be able to communicate; you want to have sound communication. Obviously, you don’t want any mental errors.”
And Mathieu included himself.
“I’d probably say that those are the things I look for as a player when I take the field: how well can I communicate [and] how can I not make mental errors. And then it’s all about playing fast.”
But the ninth-year pro also said his advice to the rookies is ultimately about being true to themselves.
“Just play as hard as you can,” he said. “It’s no pressure at all. Like I tell them, it’s the same game that they’ve been playing since most of them were five years old. Just go out there, have fun, understand your responsibilities — but just let it loose. Let the world know who you are.”