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George Karlaftis looking to improve all facets of his game heading into Year 2

Last year’s first-round defensive lineman has big plans for his sophomore season

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

It was a long, hot day of training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday, with temperatures reaching the upper 90s on the Missouri State University practice field. Despite these conditions, George Karlaftis — the Chiefs' first-round defensive lineman from a season ago — stepped up to the podium sporting sweatpants, sleeves and a t-shirt that read "Defense Rock Solid" as he answered questions from media members.

"Pretty cool — pretty cold day today," Karlaftis jokingly said in response to a question about training camp. "It's been going pretty good. We have a great group of guys. We have guys that have had some experience playing, a lot of new guys, some young guys, so it's been great."

While Karlaftis' was in a lighthearted mood during his presser, he and some other veterans have been hard at work attempting to fill the massive void left by All-Pro lineman Chris Jones along the defensive line. Jones is the usual leader of the Chiefs' stout defensive line unit. However, as he continues to holdout in hopes of a new contract, his teammates are left to pick up the slack — something Karlaftis says can only be done if they do it as a collective unit.

"We've had a lot of guys that have played a lot of ball," Karlaftis observed. "Starting with Derrick Nnadi and Mike Danna, I've played some ball, Charles Omenihu — when you have a guy like [Chris Jones], and he's not here right now, you got to fill that that void as a collective. So that's kind of what we're doing.

"Obviously, his accolades and what he's done speaks for itself. He was one of the best, if not the best defensive player last year. So, there's a little bit of a void there, but we try to fill it as a collective. We have guys that have played a lot of ball and try to fill that void be all united."

While Jones' absence is a massive hit to the Chiefs' defensive line, Karlaftis embraces the challenge and continues to work hard anyways — hoping to become a better all-around player for the team.

"Just everything, an all-encompassing approach, not leaving a stone unturned," Karlaftis emphasized for his expectations next season. "That was a big thing for me and just some self-reflection and trying to improve in every possible way I can so I can be an all-around great player like I want to be."

The Chiefs would be ecstatic to see Karlaftis make this kind of jump after a promising rookie season. His eight tackles for loss was tied for fourth most on the team, while his six sacks were good enough for second on the team, trailing behind only Jones, who led the Chiefs with a massive 15.5 sacks. Although his stats are impressive, Karlaftis says he needs to achieve them consistently if he wants to be considered truly great in this league,

"Playing defensive line, defensive end, it's a very technical position, so you always have to keep on working," Karlaftis explained. "I don't think there's a single guy in the league that's like, 'No, I'm done.'

“Just got to keep on working on just about everything and figure out a way to do it more and more consistently. That's the truest measure of a man's mental toughness, consistency."

Fortunately, he has the help of some legendary Kansas City greats to guide him on his path to improvement. Former Chiefs pass-rushing extraordinaire Tamba Hali has served as Karlaftis' mentor, and the young lineman couldn't be happier.

"Mama Mia, I mean, Tamba (Hali) taught me a lot," Karlaftis said glowingly. "From a mental perspective, physical perspective, pass rushing, run stopping, the mentality, just a lot, and I'm grateful for him. He's been a great friend, a great mentor, and I'm always looking forward to working with him."

With the pieces in place for a big second year, Karlaftis can hardly contain his excitement as the team continues to move forward with the new season.

"I feel a whole lot better, both physically and mentally, being out here on year two," Karlaftis said. "I'm super excited to hit the ground running with these guys."

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