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Chiefs opt to make key change to first phase of offseason

Andy Reid is allowing Patrick Mahomes to run Phase One down in his home state of Texas.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Phase One of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason program began on Monday, the first time in what seems like forever in which the club did not have to worry about restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chiefs could return to their facility in Kansas City to work out and meet with coaches off the field. But, as it turns out, that hasn’t really happened, at least for players on the offensive side of the football. Instead, many of them have reported to quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ home state of Texas, working out there and meeting with head coach Andy Reid and the rest of the coaching staff virtually.

“I think the biggest thing for the work we’ve been getting in Texas is, first, we want to build those relationships,” explained Mahomes, who said goodbye to Tyreek Hill this offseason. “I think that’s what made us so great over these last few years is we have a team — the bond of our team, the chemistry that we have, that we can go out there and be who we are. So I wanted to get everybody together, so they get to meet each other.”

In the past few seasons, Mahomes’ supporting cast has mostly been the same. To be sure, Hill and tight end Travis Kelce made up the core of the offense, but Demarcus Robinson had been a contributor since 2016, Byron Pringle since 2018 and Mecole Hardman since 2019.

Kelce and Hardman are still around, but newcomers Ronald Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be learning the offense from scratch. It helps to do so with friends, reasoned Mahomes.

“They learn how each other act with each other and how to build those friendships,” said the quarterback. “I wanted to really focus on the details because you get to start brand new again... those things that you kind of just blew through and went through really quickly last year — you get to really focus on those details, which I think is a great thing for us because we’ll get to go back to the basics of it, learn it from there and then evolve as the season goes on.”

During Phase One, the Chiefs’ coaches cannot instruct players on the field, anyway, so Reid, famously a man who sticks to his 20-plus-year routine, uncharacteristically opted to pivot.

“We’re going to meet with them virtually,” said Reid. “There’s a number of guys that are here lifting, but again, these are all voluntary camps — all three phases. But they’ll be able to work out on their own and do that part. We’ve had some gatherings with some of the skill players offensively — Pat organized some guys that are down in Texas with him and they’re throwing to a couple new receivers that we have. [They’re] down there with him along with the rest of the skill players — new running backs, etc. It’s moving in a positive direction. Look forward to getting these meetings started as we go forward.”

In Kansas City, Reid said the Chiefs are taking care of the “football part” of things. The afternoon is reserved for the coaches to evaluate draft prospect film that general manager Brett Veach has provided to them.

Meanwhile, Reid is counting on Mahomes to ensure the current players get in the proper work.

“That’s where I have the trust in the guys to be able to do this with the virtual,” Reid said. “We don’t need them right here. We’ve played a lot of games in the last four to five years — maybe more than anyone in the National Football League, so having them with a little time away to do their bonding with themselves, especially with the influx of new players, I think is important, and then, when they get here, they’ll be revved up. and we’ll be in this building for quite a time, so these two weeks though, that they can really be with themselves, working and getting to know each other, I think is important.”

Mahomes further explained how Phase One shifted from a workout program in Missouri to a bonafide pre-OTA training camp of sorts in Texas.

“It kind of started off where I was going to have some guys come run routes and do stuff like that before OTAs started, and then, as I kind of talked to coach Reid and [Eric Bieniemy], they informed me, they were like, ‘If you want to get everybody down there, then we can do the virtual these first few weeks, and kind of keep everybody together.’”

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman seems to have appreciated the change.

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s going good,” he said. “Just basic terminology, getting out feet wet, knocking the rust off a little bit and getting some timing down and trying to get prepared before we get to OTAs.”

Mahomes pointed out that during this time last year, he was still in a walking boot after needing surgery to fix the turf toe he suffered during a Divisional Round win against the Cleveland Browns. By getting to throw in April, Mahomes said he feels like he’s a step ahead of where he was last offseason.

He also likes the fact that he is getting to connect and get to know his new targets better off the field.

“I’m going to lunch with these guys,” he said. “I’m working out with these guys as well — not just throwing. So you kind of build those relationships that way. And then, plus, we’re in a little warmer weather than KC is right now, so it was a thing where we were going to have to work, anyway, and get off the field. We decided as long as we were in Texas working together, the coaches said that we could do it virtually and still get the learning that we need.

“It involves the trust that they have in us that we’re going to be vets and we’re going to do it the right way like we’ve been doing. And whenever we roll into KC in May, we’ll be ready to go then, too.”

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