The best way to describe Kansas City Chiefs backup offensive lineman Nick Allegretti is that he is the football equivalent of baseball's utility player or basketball's sixth man — in his time in Kansas City, Allegretti has played nearly every spot on the offensive line at one time or another.
Few things in professional sports make you more attractive to a general manager or coach than positional flexibility. The more positions you can play on the field, the greater your value to the team.
Allegretti understands this fact and says he began preparing to play on either side of the offensive line back in college.
"I played a lot of right and left guard in college, and I was always kind of that backup center who started a few games."
While playing at the University of Illinois, Allegretti said that there were plenty of times when he would shift from right or left guard to center midgame.
In order to do this successfully, Allegretti said he focuses on different techniques throughout the week, making sure his skills translate to both sides of the field.
"I've been doing it for so long," explained Allegretti, "you know, back-side hands — it's a back-side hand whether it's the right or the left, lowering my punch strike on the right. It's all the same in my mind, no matter what side I'm on."
When starting right guard Trey Smith went down with a pectoral injury ahead of Monday night's clash with the Raiders, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid tapped Allegretti to make the spot start in his absence.
Allegretti said that he is always preparing and ready to go in the event his number is called.
"To get a chance to get in there was awesome," smiled Allegretti in the locker room on Wednesday. "Definitely happy with how a lot of things went. There were a few things to clean up the run game and the pass set. But overall, really happy with my effort."
Being able to come in and hold your own against a rival like the Las Vegas Raiders is the sort of thing that earns you the respect of your teammates in the locker room. One such person who was impressed by Allegretti's effort is fellow offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr., who knows a thing or two about positional flexibility, having earned Pro Bowl honors at both left and right tackle in his career.
"Very impressive," said Brown, describing Allegretti's performance. "It's always tough coming in in the middle of the season (and) being in those types of positions when you haven't played in every single game up to that point. I think he got a few snaps here and there but coming in and being able to do what he did for a full game is really difficult. I'm really proud of him."
Allegretti knows that injuries are a part of the NFL, especially along the interior of the line. Each down is a brutal battle in which an ankle can get twisted, or a knee can get hit from the side. You never know what's going to happen.
Even with Trey Smith expected to return this week, Allegretti reminds himself that he is only one play away from being back out on that field again.
"I have to be ready to prepare for all three spots every week," said Allegretti. "Mentally, there's no chance to relax or anything like that. You have to be ready to start at all three on any given day."
Whether he's filling in for Smith again, or if something happens to another interior position, Allegretti is ready to step in and do his part.