Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco gave the team’s fans a pleasant surprise by participating in the first practice of training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Wednesday.
This came only a day after Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid had appeared uncertain that after a pair of offseason surgeries, the second-year player would even be ready to start the season.
Speaking to the media on Thursday — following his second practice session wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey — Pacheco left no doubt he would be ready for the league’s season opener: Kansas City hosting the Detroit Lions on September 7.
“Absolutely,” he declared of his availability for “Banner Night.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Arrowhead Pride’s Pete Sweeney noted that Pacheco appeared almost ready for game action. The team’s leading rusher from last season confirmed that he’s coming along from his shoulder and wrist injuries.
Based on the Wednesday practice look, I don’t see how RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum) is in danger of missing any regular-season time at all. Chiefs will ease him in, but he should be good to go vs. Lions Week 1, in my opinion.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) July 19, 2023
“I’m feeling great right now,” claimed Pacheco. “It’s a process that takes time — and for me to just continue to listen to the staff and trust in myself.”
The running back credits his quick return to dealing with the injury right away.
“That was getting on the rehab right after the Super Bowl,” he noted, “and hitting on it hard. Therefore, when the time comes like this, I’m prepared.”
He also credits the team’s training staff.
“I trust the staff,” he revealed, “and we were able to work out a plan. I’m getting back into shape, and we’re working.”
Even though he is certain he’ll be ready for Week 1, he doesn’t know how long he will wearing that yellow jersey usually reserved for quarterbacks in practice — the one that screams, “hands off” to his teammates.
“Whenever coaches allow me to [fully] play,” he said of his return to full practice participation. “When he says, ‘You’re good to go,’ that’s when I’m going to go out there — and I’m going to show it.”
Pacheco will live in franchise immortality for helping to deliver a championship by scoring a crucial touchdown while playing through multiple major injuries. But he downplayed the difficulty of suiting up for the biggest moment of his young career — even though he came out of the Chiefs’ AFC Championship victory over the Cincinatti Bengals injured.
“It wasn’t bothering me,” he explained. “We had two weeks to recover. I got a little injured in the Championship game. So we had two weeks to recover. I was good with the recovery work we did with the staff — and I was able to play. They got me right.”
At that point, he was already dealing with shoulder pain.
“The shoulder was already hurt,” Pacheco recalled, “but it wasn’t a big problem.”
Time moves fast in the NFL. Pacheco suddenly finds himself surrounded by rookies in the early portion of camp. He had advice for them.
“I said to the rookies, ‘Take it day by day. You’ve got to just keep detailing your notes and find more ways to get better every day.’”
One of those rookies is former Tulsa running back Deneric Prince, who signed with Kansas City immediately after the draft. Pacheco has taken notice of the newest member of his room.
“He’s good,” he said of Prince. “He’s going to keep working. There’s more to come [and] there’s more to learn. Day by day, it takes time. He’s working hard. He’s a good worker. That’s what we do: we work hard.”
Even with the experience of a season, however, Pacheco is happy his position group will continue to be led by veteran Jerick McKinnon, who returns for his third season in Kansas City. He is looking forward to when McKinnon returns with the rest of the veterans this weekend.
“Jerick was definitely a leader,” Pacheco reiterated. “He still calls to check up on us. Even day-in, day-out — so far — checking in. [I’m] excited [and] can’t wait to get to him.”
As he prepares for his sophomore campaign, Pacheco highlighted two of his goals — one of them echoing the advice he has given the rookies.
“Detailing my notes more and just finding little things to get better at,” he said of his areas for improvement. “For me, I want to run for 1000 yards. That’s a goal, obviously, but it starts here today at practice — day by day.”
He also hopes to see more action in the passing game as he continues to build chemistry with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“[I’m] just finding those extra catches after practice,” he said, “and getting my hands prepared for when Pat decides to throw it. I’m ready.”
Reid is known for running one of the league’s most grueling training camps — to the point that even healthy players sometimes leave more of themselves on the field than they would prefer. Few would expect a player coming off an offseason of injury rehab to relish outdoor summer practices — but Pacheco has shown himself to be anything but typical. He loves it.
“It’s the work,” he said of his favorite part of the season. “This is where you get the most out of it. Ain’t nothing better than camp — when you’re with your guys and you push each other — day-in and day-out — to get better.”