Stepping into the media tent after the Kansas City Chiefs finished Monday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri — the first in which players were allowed to wear pads and make full contract — tight end Travis Kelce didn’t sound much like a 32-year-old entering his 10th season. He sounded more like a first-year player who is still overwhelmed by the excitement of playing in the NFL.
“Pads on. Sun was out. It was a dog day, man. But we got through it,” said Kelce.
“We got a lot of work in,” he added. “Got a lot of things to learn from. That’s every day in training camp. Once you set the tempo of how we work here — Coach Reid’s done it through OTAs and we’ve had a lot of guys (especially the newer faces here at OTAs and throughout training camp) — everybody’s just hit the ground running. Right now. we’re just finding ways to keep getting better every day.”
That sounded more like the experienced, crafty veteran who has spent every day of his professional career playing for Kansas City under head coach Andy Reid. He told reporters that he has a very good feeling about of how things are going with the wide receivers who have come in following the departure of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, whose shadow still stands over the team after he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in March.
“I love what I’m seeing, man,” exclaimed Kelce. “I love what I’m seeing because they’re all working their tails off — and we’re having success with getting in sync with the quarterbacks. It’s not just the new faces like Quez [Marquez Valdes-Scantling] and JuJu [Smith-Schuster]. It’s everybody in the second and third groups that are coming along. Same in the tight end room: you just see guys keep elevating their game. It’s just been fun to watch.”
Even though it is an article of faith (among outsiders, at least) that Reid’s offense is hard for new receivers to learn — mostly because they must know what every receiver is doing on every play, so they can be used anywhere — Kelce said it’s actually more player-friendly than is generally believed.
“There are certain things that just stand true in this offense,” he remarked, “and obviously, it’s grown since one-five [quarterback Patrick Mahomes] has been here. I think it’s a little bit more friendly of an offense than a lot of guys have been in. With that being said, that means we need to get those reps so guys can kind of — I won’t say, ‘bend the rules’ — but feel the nuances of what this offense can bring to their game.”
Kelce said that it’s more of a collaboration between the pass-catchers and their head coach.
“It’s not as [many] paper lines,” Kelce explained. “There aren’t as [many] rules. It’s more of a discussion. Coach Reid has done a great job of listening to players. [But] he’s got 51%; he knows how this thing works best. So keeping good control over that — and being able to give us as many routes from everywhere on the field — I mean, that’s just an advantage.
“A lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to be inside-outside [or] in the backfield in other offenses — and that’s what you get here.”
The All-Pro tight end said that this is why he loves playing for the Chiefs.
“[Reid] makes the game fun. He makes the game easy on a lot of us. And on top of that, we know he’s giving it his all, you know? I joke about it all the time: I never see his car move from the parking lot up at Arrowhead — and definitely not here [in St. Joseph]. He’s doing everything he can to set us up for success — and I’m just very appreciative of that.”
His head coach feels pretty much the same way.
“He came here when we came here,” Reid said of Kelce on Monday. “I knew him before that because of his brother [Phildelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, whom Reid drafted in 2011]. Great family. He was a little wilder than his brother, right? A little wilder. But I knew that.
“So when Dorse [then-GM John Dorsey] ended up drafting him, he and I had our little conflicts. But he’s a great kid. He’s got a big heart. He always has had that. He loves to play the game — and he’s grown up just a ton. I’m proud of him — the way he handles himself today.”
That’s why the Chiefs elected to restructure Kelce’s contract last week, moving $3 million from later years of his contract (which runs through 2025, when Kelce will be 36 years old) to the current year: because he’s earned it.
“It’s just another reason why I love being here, man,” said Kelce of his 2022 bonus. “I’ve done everything I can to do things the right way — both on the field and in the community — and I’m going to continue to do that. They know that. And they know what type of player they’re going to get and what type of leader they’re going to get in this building — and also in the community.
“I’m extremely appreciative of it — that they would even think about it or try to put something together. It’s another reason why I go out and play my tail off for this city and this organization.”
And Kelce said that isn’t going to change.
“I don’t plan on playing anywhere else, brother,” he told a reporter. “Hope the Chiefs have that in mind, too.”
It seems pretty clear that they do.