A week into his 23rd training camp as an NFL head coach, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has likely seen it all... holdouts, pranks — and probably his fair share of fights.
In the heat of competition, it’s natural. Both the New York Giants and Detroit Lions have had training camp fights that have drawn a lot of media attention — and resulted in mixed messages from their head coaches.
Reid wants his message about intra-team fights to be clear: there’s no time for them. He elaborated on that sentiment when he met with reporters after Thursday’s practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.
“We try to go at a fast pace, and try to get in as many plays in,” Reid began. “If you get in a fight, it kind of drains the system; you’re not going to do very good on the next play, and that’s what you’re putting on tape. We try to keep the tempo up. I’m not big on fighting — that’s not my deal; this isn’t ultimate fighting or something. This is football. That doesn’t mean things don’t happen, but we’re trying to go fast and be accurate and put out on the play. If you do that right, you’ll be too tired to fight.”
The message has been well-received by his team. So far, there have not been any scuffles to report from a week’s worth of practices — and it’s been a few years since the last time tempers at a Chiefs training camp flared enough for something physical to happen.
Reid prefers healthier ways to breed competition at his camps — and in the first stretch of padded practices this week, that’s what he’s seen.
“We went [through] three padded practices, and I thought the guys — they’re going back and forth, offense and defense, which is a positive and makes you better,” Reid pointed out. “I think the competition is good; we’ve had a lot of one versus one, two versus two and three versus three action — so you’re getting good on good, and that is important to get you better.”
Such competition will naturally make everyone involved better — and in the new 17-game regular season, that’s even more important; teams won’t want to overwork their players while competing for the AFC’s top playoff seed.
“I’ve thought about it; I’m not sure you can do that with the parity in the league,” Reid responded to a question about resting players during the prolonged schedule. “The way the playoffs are set up, every game is an important game. But with the competition and the numbers, you should be able to rotate guys if we’re handling this thing right.”
Speaking of competition, one of the biggest position battles to follow at camp is the wide receiver who will see the second-most snaps behind Tyreek Hill.
“Right now, it’s a combination of guys,” said Reid. “They’re working, we’re doing okay. That’s normally how it works; when Sammy was injured, that’s how it worked from there.”
Two of the major competitors are wideouts Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson. Throughout camp, Hardman has flashed with big plays — while Robinson has made his impact more quietly. The key to the receiver competition is that there likely won't be a true winner because they are moved around so much — and used in different roles.
“We rotate enough,” Reid assured. “Demarcus [Robinson] is fine. We know what he can do, and he knows all the spots. He’s competing like crazy for that particular position — but he also knows that we rotate and move guys all around. He understands how we operate, and I think they all do — all the guys that have a chance to be in there understand that.”
When camp began, another position group worth watching was the offensive line — but it now seems that most of the line’s starting group has been figured out. Instead, the true competition is among the depth players. Andrew Wylie is among those battling to prove his worth to the team — but he isn’t the only one.
“We all have confidence in [Wylie],” Reid confirmed. “He’s played, [Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has] played, Austin [Blythe] has played, so you got these guys that are backing up that have the experience. Andrew plays every position across the board, Larry’s got those inside positions, and Austin can do all three also.”
The one position that doesn’t feel set in stone is at right tackle, where Mike Remmers began as the starter before injuring his back. Aside from Wylie’s occasional repetitions, rookie Lucas Niang has been taking his place — and Reid has liked what he’s seen from the young tackle.
“He came back in great shape, and that’s paid off for him,” Reid emphasized. “He’s out there and battling like crazy, going against good players on our defensive front, so he’s getting good looks. He’s holding his own, so I appreciate his effort — and he’s getting better every day.”
While the players battle for positioning on the depth chart, Reid hopes that’s the only type of fighting that occurs. Physical altercations distract from the goal of every practice — and that philosophy is part of why he’s one of the most successful coaches in football history.