During rookie minicamp at the Truman Sports Complex on Saturday, rookie offensive lineman Darian Kinnard took his first snaps wearing the red and gold jersey of his new team.
“It was really fun,” he told reporters on Sunday. “First practice of rookie minicamp with the Kansas City Chiefs. It was pretty cool.”
After Kansas City selected him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft just over a week ago, the initial story was that Kinnard — like fellow offensive lineman Trey Smith a year ago — would have a big motivation to show the league that he should have been taken earlier. But he said that for now, that’s in the background.
“The chip’s on my shoulder — but I’ve got to be smart-minded, keep my head down and work,” he said. “First things first: I’ve got to compete for a job. Then I can keep carrying that chip on my shoulder against these other teams.”
For Kinnard, what’s more important is that he’s with the Chiefs — the team that sees him for what he is: a tackle. While he continued to emphasize that he’ll play wherever he is needed, he said that right tackle is where he thinks he can best help the team, calling it his ‘best position.”
“In terms of experience,” he noted, “that’s where the majority of my snaps were. But that doesn’t by any means make me feel like I couldn’t play any position.”
Even though Kinnard started at tackle during most of this time with the Kentucky Wildcats, some of the NFL teams that expressed interest in him saw him differently.
“A lot of teams asked, but they never said, ‘Hey, we’re going to play you at guard,’” he recalled. “Some teams said, ‘Yeah, we see you as a guard.’ [But] at the end of the day, for me, it was trying to make an impact at whatever position that was.
“It’s pretty cool that coming in, [the Chiefs] see me as a tackle. But I was going to come in and compete for any job I could. It’s pretty reassuring that I can play tackle — a position I’d be comfortable with.”
Kinnard is well aware that he’ll have to beat out two established players to become the team’s starting right tackle: former third-round pick Lucas Niang and fifth-year player Andrew Wylie, who covered for Niang while he was injured in 2021.
“Of course, it gives me a lot of motivation,” Kinnard said of the upcoming battle. “But at the end of the day, it’s going to be a lot of hard work — busting my butt to get there.”
During the minicamp, the Chiefs are working him on both ends of the line. Under the circumstances of these practices, Kinnard said that represents a special challenge.
“When you’re out there without pads on and you’re switching from right to left, you really have to lock in on details. It’s like in basketball, [going from] shooting right-handed to shooting left-handed and vice-versa. It’s a different feel. The smallest details make a huge difference.”
Still, he said, he’s having fun — and his fellow rookies are meshing together well. And yes... he will change his hair from Kentucky blue to Chiefs red.
“That’s the game plan,” he laughed. “Right now, [I’m] just getting through minicamp. The biggest focus is just getting better at my position. This [hair] will turn red — eventually. Just know that.”