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‘Timing’ is the key word in lead-up to Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 2022 season

The third-year running back knows that for better or worse, timing has defined his Kansas City career.

NFL: MAY 26 Kansas City Chiefs OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Whether you compare the first stretch of the 2021 regular season to the second (or the in-game flip between halves of last season’s AFC Championship), inconsistency was a recurring theme of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense.

That up-and-down feeling can also be attached to the season (and career) of Chiefs’ running back Clyde-Edwards-Helaire, who is now entering his third NFL season. Absences due to multiple injuries during his first two campaigns have made it unclear what kind of player he really is. While we’ve seen the former LSU running back turn in exciting performances as recently as the last season’s playoff run, we’ve never felt confident in Edwards-Helaire’s ability.

And now, he faces competition. Even though Darrel Williams — last year’s snap-count leader among running backs — is gone, Kansas City has added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers back Ronald Jones and three rookie rushers to its roster.

After Thursday’s OTA session, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid addressed the heat that those additions could put on his incumbent starter.

“Clyde knows — [and] I tell the whole team this: we’re going to bring in the most competition. And that makes you better,” Reid insisted to reporters. “You don’t look over your shoulder. It’s full steam ahead; just work on your game. There’s going to be competition, so just maximize what you can do. Then you don’t have to worry about anything else.”

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Edwards-Helaire doesn’t seem to be worried about anything else. When he took his turn with the press on Thursday, he came off as confident in his abilities — and that extended to his health. He said that when he considers how his career has gone so far, one word comes to mind.

“I would mainly say it was really just the timing of it,” he said. “You probably can pinpoint games where it’s like, ‘He’s getting a head of steam and he’s about to start rolling.’ Then it’s ‘Oh, he dealt with that injury.’

“It’s just one of those things. Even with having those injuries late in my rookie year — I did something to my hip and ankle that they thought I wouldn’t even be able to play in Year 2 — [but] I was able to get back out there in Year 1 and play in a Super Bowl.”

Since that championship game, things still haven’t been easy for the former first-round pick. He underwent gall bladder surgery that offseason, which he said had an unbelievable physical impact.

When evaluating his 2021 performance, it’s an important point to consider. The surgery could’ve been floated out there as a way to justify the potential for an underwhelming season — but that’s the exact reason it wasn’t. Edwards-Helaire didn’t want it to be an excuse.

Now, however, he appears to be past the physical limitations that he had to overcome a year ago.

“I feel great,” he confirmed. “There was a lot of things with it: food intake — [and my] weight was fluctuating. It wasn’t something I [needed] to spew out to the media, but it was something I was able to conquer every week.

“I had four incisions in my stomach, and I was able to go out and do fall camp without a hiccup. It’s one of those things that mentally, if you tell yourself you can do it, you do it. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about it. I know this is my job, [so] a gall bladder surgery — whatever surgery — wasn’t going to stop me from going out there and playing ball.”

That toughness is exactly why he’s made for the competition the team has set up at his position. Jones has been an explosive back. He will carve a role out on the team — and Edwards-Helaire is ready to help maximize the impact he and his fellow running backs can make.

“[Jones] was somebody that I talked to beforehand,” he revealed. “Leonard [Fournette] was in his room — Darwin [Thompson] was also there in Tampa — so it wasn’t like it’s this random dude coming in. We’ve had conversations with each other... When he came in, we talked to each other like a person: if you have a question, if I have a question. We learn from each other, and we go out and try to improve.”

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

He even acknowledged how the rookies can add to his own game.

“[Isiah Pacheco] or [Jerrion] Ealy or [Tayon Fleet-Davis] may see something that I didn’t see — and that’s just what it is. You can train everything you want to, but one thing you can’t train in this profession is eyes. That’s what sets everyone apart.”

What will likely set Edwards-Helaire apart from the rest of the group is his familiarity with the offense and quarterback Patrick Mahomes — which is likely to have improved following his attendance at the unoffiical offseason workouts Mahomes hosted in Texas. Edwards-Helaire said that timing was one of the key things he and his quarterback worked on.

Timing — whether it’s on a pass pattern or with injuries — has become one of the defining traits of Edwards-Helaire’s career. With experience in the system — and good health — the timing could finally be on his side to solidify his role as a truly dynamic back in one of the league’s best offenses.

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