On Monday, we learned that the Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver had been back in Pennsylvania for a charity event over the weekend.
The 25-year-old’s final year in Pittsburgh was limited due to injury, leading to just 15 receptions for 129 yards. Smith-Schuster likely signed the one-year deal (which includes $2,490,000 of fully guaranteed money) with the Chiefs in the hopes of landing a more lucrative contract next offseason.
According to the receiver, that could be right back with the Steelers.
“I could see myself back here. Even [Sunday], this shows a lot, that I still have fans out here coming out to support me.”
The Chiefs don’t play the Steelers during the 2022 regular season.
Speaking of returns, we got word that the free-agent running back was coming back to Kansas City after all.
McKinnon appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Chiefs in 2021, compiling 25 touches for 169 yards and a touchdown. He bested those numbers as the Chiefs’ running back of choice during their three-game postseason run, during which he accumulated 48 touches for 315 yards and a score.
The addition of McKinnon makes for a rather crowded Chiefs running back room entering mandatory minicamp and training camp, considering that Kansas City is likely to keep six wide receivers, four tight ends and a fullback. That could mean three available running back spots up for grabs between McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones, Derick Gore — and rookies Isiah Pacheco and Jerrion Ealy.
The team’s mandatory minicamp began on Tuesday, with six players absent. Pete Sweeney was on hand, filing observations about what he saw on the field. After practice, the Chiefs’ first-round rookie defensive end took a turn with the press.
Karlaftis revealed he got a head start on becoming a pro by losing 10 to 15 pounds during his pre-draft process. It can be estimated that Karlaftis, who was listed at 275 pounds at Purdue, is likely in the 260-265-pound range.
“I think I’ve grown a lot, changed my body a little bit during the pre-draft process, and that’s unlocked different things I can do on the field,” described Karlaftis, who added he worked on his mobility and speed. “So just mixing and molding myself into the pass rusher I want to be and (defensive line) coach [Joe] Cullen sees in me.”
But it wasn’t just Karlaftis’ power approach and relentlessness that drew him to the Chiefs. In early June, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo explained that it was a pre-draft video call that made him really stand out.
“It was the Zoom meeting that we had,” said Spagnuolo. “There was something about him that I said, ‘Boy, if we could get this kind of person in here, I think it would be an extra bonus in addition to the fact that he was a really good football player.’”
Offensive lineman Darryl Williams was one of those reported absent from Tuesday’s practice — and before the day was out, we knew why: he had been waived from the team.
The 25-year-old Williams was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State following the 2020 NFL Draft. He has yet to be active for an NFL game, but has been a member of the Chiefs practice squad through almost all of the last two seasons. The team signed him to his second Reserve/Futures contract on February 2.
While you should never say “never” about a player who has been around long enough to know a team’s system, this might be the end of the road for Williams in Kansas City. He’s made it as far as final cutdown day in each of the last two seasons — but this time, he didn’t make it as far as mandatory minicamp.
After injuries on Tuesday, nine Chiefs weren’t on the field for Wednesday’s minicamp session. Pete counted up the interceptions in what turned out to be a big day for the defense. Afterward, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back said he’d come to Kansas City because he felt the Chiefs were the team most ready to be back in the Super Bowl.
And after spending some time with the team, he’s convinced that his skills will fit what Kansas City needs.
“I think they’re going to translate well,” he said. “You know, [there are] a lot of similarities to what I’ve done in the past down in Tampa. [I’m] just correlating it and getting the rest of the playbook down.”
And he’s not at all worried about the competition in the running back group, which currently consists of seven players competing for three or four roster spots.
“It’s a long season,” noted Jones. “Preseason included, it could go 24 games. It’s going to take more than just one guy. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to — a 1-2-3 punch, if you will.
“It’s all good.”
The Chiefs’ new wide receiver also talked about his journey to Kansas City.
Smith-Schuster comes to Kansas City after five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — a likely first-ballot Hall of Fame player. He noted the difference in play between Mahomes and his former quarterback, saying that the biggest one is how long he must stay engaged in a play.
“Ben,” he said, “he threw the ball. He could do pretty much all the stuff. I just feel like Pat — when it gets to the scrambling part — that’s where it’s like, he can throw the ball across the field; he can do this, he can do that. We’re always taught just to stay on the move, because you just never know what you’ll get out of him.”
The emphasis on unscripted plays appears to set the Chiefs apart from his previous experience with the Steelers.
“We have a period where we practice it,” Smith-Schuster observed. “That’s how you know it’s taken very seriously.”
It had begun to seem like everybody in the NFL had been talking about the former Kansas City receiver’s podcast teaser that suggested the Chiefs had “suppressed his stats” in 2021. Well... almost everybody.
Up until now, Mahomes has been silent on the issue, but that all changed on Thursday afternoon. He spoke on the matter for the first time at the podium following mandatory minicamp.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Mahomes. “We love Tyreek here. We’ve always loved him, and we still love him.”
Mahomes went on to say that Hill had never mentioned any of his frustrations to him — including when the two spoke face to face last month.
“I talked to him at Formula 1 in Miami in May and everything seemed fine,” claimed Mahomes.
Doing his best to keep it classy, Mahomes said that Hill was making these declarations to generate buzz around his podcast.
“I’m sure it had some to do with trying to get his podcast rolling,” he said.
Then it was time for some changes.
With organized team activities (OTAs) and their mandatory minicamp behind them, the Kansas City Chiefs made four roster moves on Thursday, signing defensive back Chris Lammons and wide receiver Aaron Parker while waiving cornerback Luq Barcoo. Wide receiver Mathew Sexton was also waived with an injury designation.
Lammons, 26, has been with the Chiefs for the last two seasons — almost exclusively as a special-teams player. He spent the 2020 season on the practice squad, from which he was elevated to the active roster for two regular-season games and all three postseason games. He made the 53-man roster in 2021, appearing in 12 games before being placed on the Reserve/Injured list in December.
Lammons was in the news during the offseason. He — along with New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and two other men — was wanted by Las Vegas police after a man was beaten in a nightclub in the early-morning hours of February 5. Lammons turned himself in on February 16 — the day after news of his involvement in the matter initially broke. His signing suggests that the Chiefs have satisfied themselves that he will not face significant consequences from the incident.
Parker, 24, originally joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Rhode Island for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. He failed to make their final roster that fall — but was immediately signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad, where we remained until being released in mid-May. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound wideout appeared in one Panthers game in 2021, in which he was used only on special teams. On Wednesday, he participated in Kansas City’s minicamp practice as a tryout player.
While roster changes were being made at Arrowhead, big news was being made elsewhere: it was announced that the team’s stadium would be one of the American sites for World Cup soccer matches four years from now. On Friday, we collected some reactions.
“It would be awesome,” said Mahomes. “I was talking about that with Brittany yesterday. I’m going to be at every one of those games I can possibly be at if they do get them here. I know Kansas City and how much they love soccer. You see it with Sporting — and how they sell out almost every game. And with the Current now in Sporting Stadium — they’re bringing in these huge crowds. So you know that Kansas City loves that sport and I think if we get that bid — we’ll be selling out Arrowhead, Sporting, the Current stadium whenever it gets built up. It will be a great experience, and I’ll be at every single one of them here.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid also weighed in on the possibility in his remarks Thursday, revealing a previously unknown appreciation for the other football.
“That would be great,” Reid said of Kansas City’s bid. “I like soccer, believe it or not. I know I’m not built like a soccer player — but I wasn’t built like a quarterback coach either. I enjoy the sport. I have a ton of respect for those guys and the amount of work that goes into it. I know how fond the Hunt family is of soccer — and how much it means to them.
“And then the city of Kansas City, they love soccer too. We would definitely have a great turn out there, I know. [And] great support.”