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Training camp notebook: Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross among next up with Kadarius Toney out

Life without Toney began the past few days at Chiefs’ camp — could they turn to Rice and Ross?

Kansas City Chiefs Offseason Workout Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Heading into training camp’s first break on Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Wednesday practice session came with a sense of temporary resolution with regard to the status of wide receiver Kadarius Toney. The obvious ideal scenario would be for Toney — who the club has projected as its No. 1 receiver for the 2023 season — to be working all month long.

Now aware that he won’t practice soon due to a meniscus tear, the Chiefs are leaning into their youth. Beyond the eldest statesman — 28-year-old Marquez Valdes-Scantling — quarterback Patrick Mahomes is finding early chemistry with second-year receiver Skyy Moore and six-year veteran Justin Watson.

But it will take more than just those three to fill out the wide receiver room — and knowing they need the camp repetitions for that to be possible, second-round rookie Rashee Rice and former undrafted free agent Justyn Ross are seeing significant time with the first team.

“[Rice] comes from a no-huddle offense (SMU), but yet it’s a little bit different with the tempo as here and now, a huddle play,” started offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, before explaining further. “Getting to the line of scrimmage, running your route, having conversions with it and yet being on time, jogging back and doing it again.

“He came in phenomenal shape here to this training camp — and I think every day, he’s made incremental improvements. It’s exciting for us because the sky’s the roof for his talent.”

Like Toney, Ross has dealt with a rich injury history, something he is also trying to curb as he attempts to break through to the team’s 53-man roster. At 6’4” and 205 lbs, Ross is providing Mahomes with a big target who can go up and get the ball.

The fact that Toney was sidelined on Day 1 of camp — before the Chiefs even took an offensive snap — has helped to provide Ross the time he needs with Mahomes to make the club.

On Tuesday, Mahomes mentioned an incomplete pass to Ross as he attempted a fade. But then, on Wednesday, Mahomes hit Ross’ back shoulder over cornerback Trent McDuffie 15 yards down the right sideline.

“[The receivers we have] come in different sizes — and he’s one that’s a bigger wide receiver — but when you watch him, he really excels at route-running,” said Nagy. “So last year, it was almost kind of treated like a redshirt year for him — mentally being in the meetings, now physically coming back out here and doing what we said is learning his timing, for Pat to understand how he runs routes and for him to understand how to run the routes. So it’s going to be immense growth for him in a good way.

“I relate it to Skyy Moore. Skyy Moore last year came in, and he was just drinking out of a fire hydrant. There was a lot of stuff coming in at him, and you can’t play fast. It’s hard to play fast as a rookie. Now you get a second year, and it’s somewhat that way for Ross.”

Wide receiver Richie James, who Kansas City acquired in the offseason, has also turned heads at training camp thanks to his ability to cut quickly and get up the field in a flash.

“We got a lot of depth,” said James. “We got a lot of good players inside and out. We got a lot of moving pieces — people could move inside, they could move outside. I think they’re talented, to be honest with you. I think we’re a really solid group.”

Over the next 40-plus days, Nagy and his group of 20-something receivers will be tasked with finding an answer without Toney, even as they maintain the hope he can be ready before opening night on September 7.

Right now, there’s only a “chance,” per head coach Andy Reid, so the Chiefs need to be ready for anything. The messaging is there.

“Finish, finish, finish — we harp that,” said Nagy. “These guys, if there’s one word that they hear every practice when we’re watching tape, when we’re out at practice, every coach, every player is yelling to finish. And you guys see it when these wide receivers are downfield — every now and then, you see [Travis] Kelce, and you hold your breath because he kind of acts like he’s going to throw the ball back to the next guy.

“We practice that stuff, but getting guys to finish to the ball. It’s a mentality, it’s an attitude, and I think it’s what’s helped over all these years.”


You can find my complete observations from Wednesday’s practice here.

Post-practice chat and press conferences

If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conference is also available on Spotify.

Injury report

  • Did not practice (due to injury): LB Nick Bolton (illness), LB Isaiah Moore (knee), WR Kadarius Toney (knee injured on 7/23)
  • Excused: WR John Ross
  • Limited: RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum)
  • Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List: DT Tershawn Wharton (ACL)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled all of Wednesday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:

I would add to PJ’s point in saying this is an Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes thing. Chiefs will often dial up a rush on the next offensive play after a running back fumbles — or go right back to the target that made a mistake. It starts at training camp.

Quote of the day

Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, approaching the podium in 90-degree temperatures (and a real feel of 102 degrees): “Got good weather [today] — nice and cool. What are you guys, hot?”

What’s next?

The Chiefs will have their first day off of training camp on Thursday — and the club will return to the field for its first padded practice of camp on Friday. The workout begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Head coach Andy Reid will address the media following the practice as the team’s quarterbacks, running backs and specialists sign autographs. Here’s the complete 2023 training camp schedule.

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