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In his first training camp, George Karlaftis is absorbing all the knowledge he can

The rookie defensive end has a variety of teammates helping him learn the ropes of the NFL.

NFL: JUN 02 Kansas City Chiefs OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the biggest storylines coming out of Kansas City Chiefs’ 2022 training camp is the reflective honesty of defensive end Frank Clark. Hearing him open up about his lifestyle changes — which are directed towards improving himself for the betterment of the team — has been excellent, but we’ll have to wait a while to see if that results in an on-field improvement.

For now, the only thing we know for sure about Clark in training camp is that he’s embracing the leadership role he’s always had — but this season, it’s even more important. He now has first-round rookie George Karlaftis at the other end of the defensive line — a player who could use some mentoring. It’s safe to say Clark has welcomed that opportunity with open arms.

Clark’s enthusiasm represents the positive relationship that can help jumpstart a young player’s career. Speaking to the press after Tuesday’s training camp practice session at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, Karlaftis shared some of what he has learned from Clark so far.

“Just little things about the game,” he revealed. “The little veteran intricacies that he knows — stuff that was passed down to him from guys like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. He’s passing that stuff on to me in order to help me be successful — and this team be successful.”

It’s great that Clark has been open to this mentoring, but it’s also a two-way street. Karlaftis is curious enough to try to learn the things he doesn’t know.

“At first, he says, ‘What’s up?’ and introduces himself,” said Karlaftis of his first meeting with Clark. “I kind of started asking him, ‘Hey what are you doing on this? On that?’ Then he took me after practice, saying, ‘Hey, I do a couple [of] things after practice if you want to get with me,’ and I’ve been getting with him every day.”

Clark is the group’s most-senior veteran — that is, until recently-signed defensive end Carlos Dunlap arrives in camp. Karlaftis noted the group was “pumped” for Dunlap’s arrival, adding that there will be a lot to learn from him as well.

Karlaftis said that even the younger players — who have NFL experience that he doesn’t yet possess — are working to help him develop.

“They’re trying to take me under their wing,” he said, “from Frank and Chris [Jones], to Mike [Danna] and Turk [Wharton] — everybody in the group is coming together as one. Obviously Frank helps me out after every practice, Chris helps me out in his own way... we’re trying to have the strongest group possible, trying to bring everyone along.”

Karlaftis has a strong foundation. Measuring at nearly 6 feet 4 and 266 pounds during the NFL Combine, he possesses the natural strength to be a very powerful player. That was apparent in his college tape — and he’ll rely upon it at the start of his NFL career.

“I’m a power rusher,” he declared. “You see guys around the league, the speed guys and the power guys; the speed guys are like Von Miller. If you really look and study the game, you see that over half the guys’ sacks come from power. So from that alone, [when] you hear that Von Miller has over 100 sacks, probably 60 or 70 of them are from power. So why wouldn’t you just hone in on that?”

But Karlaftis likens his own game to that of Khalil Mack.

“My coach my freshman year at Purdue, he told me ‘speed to power,’” Karlaftis recalled. “That’s the only move he taught me when I enrolled in spring ball. So I worked that nearly every single day, and I based my whole game around that.”

During the first day of padded practices on Monday, that power was evident in individual drills. Karlaftis successfully bull-rushed left tackle Roderick Johnson — earning a high-five from Clark.

Karlaftis has also learned from recently-retired defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who also attended Purdue University. He believes he has a similar playing style to the longtime edge rusher, who had 95.5 career sacks over an 11-year NFL career.

Absorbing all of that knowledge will be hard. But it’s also one of the things that helps talented young players have successful professional careers. And Karlaftis has apparently already learned an important lesson about the real objective: Super Bowl LVII, which will be played in Glendale, Arizona.

“No, it’s not about the number,” said Karlaftis of his sack goal for the 2022 season. “It’s about the wins and losses. It’s about playing in Arizona in February.”

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