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Chiefs’ Charles Omenihu: ‘You’ve got to uphold that standard every day’

In Kansas City, the former 49ers’ defensive lineman sees the standards that have being set by his new teammates.

NFL: JAN 29 NFC Championship - 49ers at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs signed former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Charles Omenihu in the offseason, they planned on moving him around the line — similar to how they have utilized fellow defensive lineman Chris Jones in recent years.

But with Jones holding out from training camp as a contract extension is negotiated, Omenihu believes he can step into a veteran leadership role

“Obviously Chris is a huge piece — and he’s a guy that has done it here his whole career,” Omenihu told reporters after Tuesday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “But you’ve got [other] guys in the room that are also leaders... I’m new — but I mean, it’s my fifth [season] in the league, so I feel I can share some knowledge with the guys. I feel like everybody just plays their role — picking each other up as a unit — so that’s what we do for each other.”

Part of being new to this team is experiencing head coach Andy Reid’s famously brutal training camp for the first time. Omenihu, however, said that he appreciates the challenge.

“It’s a credit to Coach Reid,” he noted, “and the way he structures camp, it makes you grind. Man, [it’s] like to where the practice is harder than the game!”

Still, Omenihu feels that these practices have put his endurance to the test.

“That was a big thing for me,” he pointed out, “like pushing through — and not just pushing through to get through, but pushing through to still be impactful.”

Beyond the physical toll of a fast-paced practice, there’s the mental aspect of lining up against Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on a daily basis — while simultaneously competing against one of the league’s best (and most physical) offensive lines.

“It’s definitely challenging,” acknowledged Omenihu, “Every day you come out here in this kind of training environment, it pushes you... your mental [game] has to be up — as well as [your] physical shape and condition.”

Just the same, Omenihu has noticed that one benefit of playing against such a talented unit is being able to get feedback on his own game; the offensive line has been willing to help him improve. But at the same time, Omenihu confessed that the competitor in him won’t allow him to fail. Regardless of the logo on the side of his opponent’s helmet, he wants to win his matchup.

“[You have to] just implement an attitude,” he explained. “Like, when you’re in pads, we’re teammates — but at the same time, you’ve got to assert your dominance in one way or the other. That’s the same thing for the guy across from you.

“It’s good competition... Iron sharpening iron, you’re sharpening your knife or for the season.”

Part of getting that knife ready is focusing on the intricacies of the opposing lineman's natural tendencies.

“You’re definitely not trying to scout our guys” he noted, “but when I go against guys who are across the line, I know what I have to do versus each guy — [like] where they set [and] where their hands are going to be. If they are aggressive, if they are light setters or if they jump the count a little bit. Whatever the case may be, I have an idea for all five guys.”

The only new wrinkle Omenihu has faced is dropping into coverage, which isn’t something that many teams ask their defensive linemen to do. Neither the 49ers or his original team — the Houston Texans — required that of him.

“That’s something that I haven’t done [in] my whole career,” he said. “So that’s something that I’m learning; [I’m] asking questions and trying to get better at [it].”

But regardless of the way he’s asked to do it, Omenihu recognizes that the mission is clear: winning another Super Bowl.

“This place has done it, you know. In 2019, they won and went back again. And then again this past year — and then the five straight AFC Championship games.

“Right now, we are the standard. So when you come here and join an organization like this, you’ve got to uphold that standard every day.”

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