Kansas City Chiefs rookie linebacker Leo Chenal had to leave Saturday’s training camp session due to exhaustion from the heat; he returned to the field Sunday, participated in the full workout and ended the day by intercepting fellow rookie Dustin Crum on the session’s final play.
“I was just doing my job, really,” the Wisconsin native humbly told the media after the practice. “Just putting myself in the right spot, doing what my coaches told me to do. Those plays are going to come if we’re assignment-sound. So it’s just a credit to the defense and us learning what we’re supposed to be doing.”
On the play, Crum appeared to throw it directly into Chenal’s body; the linebacker tipped it up before corralling it and running the other way. The moment had to be satisfying for the 6-foot-2, 261-pound rookie, who is expected to make his living in Kansas City (and at the pro level) as a run defender more than anything else.
“It’s something I didn’t do my whole last season at Wisconsin, so it definitely felt nice,” said Chenal. “It kind of ruins the mood when you got to double-catch it like that... but it’s definitely a good way to end practice — solid note, felt good. Building confidence there, so that feels nice.”
On draft weekend, general manager Brett Veach confirmed that he sees Chenal as the club’s SAM linebacker of the future — and Chenal confirmed on Sunday that is where the Chiefs have had him working in the base defense.
The Chiefs also like Chenal as a potential backup to Nick Bolton at the MIKE linebacker position — and without the veterans around this weekend, he’s been at that position in subpackages.
“It’s not like I’m switching or changing it up right now,” he said. “I’m trying to learn my spot as a main focus while trying to key in on what others are doing — because, in the end, that’s going to help me learn the spots I might need to play. So [I’m] just trying to focus in on that and learn as I go from others.”
Playing the MIKE position means coverage reps against former NFL MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, which Chenal properly described with a smile.
“You know, iron sharpens iron,” began Chenal. “In reality, it’s like diamond sharpens like copper with that guy out there. It’s definitely an honor and privilege to be able to work on a craft.”
And while the rookie has been thrilled with all the repetitions he is getting during the team’s opening weekend — as the players practice in shorts and shells — he has his eyes on one upcoming training camp date in particular.
“[Linebackers] coach (Brendan) Daly told me like, ‘Aw, sorry dude. We’ve got to wait ‘till August 1st,’” recounted Chenal. “I’m like, ‘Aw, jeez. Darn it.’ But I’m not trying to look forward like that — trying to stay in the moment, but it’s definitely exciting — something to have on that calendar — it’s pretty cool.”
The reference to the calendar is fitting, as Chenal’s initial time at training camp has been a true tale of two days — one ending in an early exit and another ending in an interception.
Only eight more days until what he relishes the most.