Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon spoke to the media on Saturday from the team’s training camp at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri.
McKinnon — who totaled 315 yards from scrimmage across three playoff games last season — was a free agent this offseason, but did not re-sign with the Chiefs until June 14. He said that the delay was health-related.
“I had some surgery after the season last year,” he explained. “I wanted to make sure I took as much time as needed — let that heal and recover. And then make my decision and go from there.
“I kind of always knew I would be coming back. Then — once we got into negotiation talks and stuff like that — then it was settled, and it was an easy choice.”
McKinnon said that he had to decide between several teams.
“I had other teams interested,” he claimed, “but after being here last year — and being part of the team, the team camaraderie and just seeing how the coaches did everything and their approach — like I said, it was an easy choice.”
The seventh-year pro enters this season at 30 years of age — which is an accomplishment in and of itself at his position — joining a crowded Kansas City running backs room. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Derrick Gore have returned from last season. The Chiefs also added former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter Ronald Jones in free agency before drafting Isiah Pacheco out of Rutgers in April’s draft.
Even though they are competing with each other for playing time (or even a roster spot), McKinnon noted a cooperative spirit in the group.
“We’re all working to get better, together,” he said of his fellow running backs. “Everybody has their own thing they need to improve on. But at the same time, we all come together. Everyone is learning from one another — but at the same time, we’re pushing each other to be our best.
“If I come out slacking one day and everyone else is at their best, I’m going to look back and I’m going to have to pick it up. That’s the good thing about the whole group: it’s filled with talent. It’s going to be a good one.”
Even in a crowded room, McKinnon believes each back can find their best individual roles.
“I would say there’s a lot of similarities — all of us are quick, shifty-good in tight space,” he observed. “But then everybody’s size is different. Clyde is probably the shorter of all of us — but he’s compact and does a good job of breaking tackles. So does Gore.
“The great thing about this group is there are similarities within each and every one of us — but at the same time, we all bring something different to the table.”
After a strong close to the 2021 season, McKinnon is justifiably ready to get back on the field. He will not take for granted, however, that his previous work will speak for itself.
“Last year is last year — like I said last training camp,” McKinnon acknowledged. “Every year’s a new year. You have to prove yourself. You’ve got new guys coming in. The running back room is deep. We added RoJo. Everybody knows what he can do; he did it in Tampa Bay for a long time.
“It’s a good group. The competition is going to be real good — and it’s going to make everybody be at their best.”