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Bryan Cook wants to be dependable as a young leader of the Chiefs’ defense

The second-year safety will likely be a new starter this season — and he knows that role doesn’t end with his play.

NFL: MAY 24 Kansas City Chiefs OTA Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s very likely that one of the Kansas City Chiefs’ new defensive starters in 2023 will be second-year safety Bryan Cook — and it didn’t take long for his leadership to be tested during the team’s training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

In fact, it only took until the first fully-padded practice on Friday.

After tight end Travis Kelce hauled in a pass during a 7-on-7 period, he turned upfield and ran through arm tackles. One from cornerback DiCaprio Bootle came in late — and Kelce let the defender know how he felt about it.

That’s when Cook came in to break it up. His mission to make cooler heads prevail was about more than just protecting his teammates.

“Obviously you can see they were riled up a bit,” remarked Cook during his press session after practice. “I just wanted to get through practice: get to the reps as much as possible. When it comes to a point where we’re wasting time by chatting too much, that’s when I’ll come out and say, ‘Guys, come on.’”

So Cook passed his first on-field leadership test, showing the mindset we need to see from an ascending leader. That’s not to say he minded seeing all-time great’s temper flaring.

“It was kind of nice to get in a scuffle, though,” laughed Cook. “I was like, ‘I see you Kelce — getting a little fire under you.’ That stuff also does encourage us to be more passionate about it.”

Cook himself is a passionate player. Just ask those around him.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hasn’t been the only one to mention it. Linebacker Nick Bolton also spoke about it during the offseason.

It’s just part of the way Cook projects his passion. But that’s not his No. 1 priority.

“[Making] sure everyone in front of me is doing a good job,” said Cook of his primary focus. “[Making] sure everyone is doing what they need to do with all the checks going on — because the faster they play, the faster I can play. Once everyone is in position in front of me, we’re good.

“I’m trying to get my guys to understand what we’re playing on every down as much as possible. That’s where my head is at.”

By all accounts, Cook has always had the mindset to passionately lead a defense. But he’s also had a player from whom he could learn: Justin Reid. The former Houston Texans safety came to Kansas City in the same offseason that Cook did, but is entering his sixth NFL season.

It took a moment for Cook to find the words to describe how Reid has impacted his young career.

“He has years on me,” he finally said. “Where do I even start?

“There is so much to learn from him outside of football — [like] life. Coming in as a rookie, you don’t know anything. [I learned] from him off the field: how to manage through life, how to manage this situation [and] being comfortable in front of the cameras.

“On the field? Just being ready: being a pro. It boils down to everything.

“He’s playing at a high level... Whatever he knows, I try to pick his brain about certain things — but it’s about everything. You can’t just pinpoint one thing... it’s constant learning from him.”

Being a safety is all about being able to do it all; no good safety can be a one-trick pony. That goes not only for their position but also with their role within the defense: from the back end, the safety should know about everything that’s happening.

“I’m trying to learn and focus on as much as I can about the guys around me,” Cook reiterated. “So when the time comes and the bullets are flying, I can help whoever — wherever they need help with [things] — from the rookie to the vet. People have brain farts out there; it can get messy.”

When the speed of the game does get the best of a teammate, Cook wants to be the reliable, dependable person who can get them back on track. That’s good to have in any player at any position — but being a safety comes with an expectation of leadership, which Cook certainly embraces.

Still, it’s just the beginning for the 23-year-old player. As his career continues, his communication skills (and understanding of the game) will only grow. That’s something that’s been hammered into him since he entered the league.

“Continue to grow, continue to grow, continue to grow,” Cook emphasized. “As time [goes on], we’re going to keep building — like fine wine.”

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