In June, Kansas City Chiefs’ left tackle Donovan Smith downplayed the effect of head coach Andy Reid’s infamously difficult training camps, citing his eight years of training in Florida with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The veteran spoke to reporters after Sunday’s two-and-a-half hour training-camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. As he predicted, he is handling camp well — but he has noticed some differences between the two teams.
“It’s definitely an adjustment here,” Smith confirmed. “We definitely work our tails off here — but it’s great. Any time you’re going against a good defensive line like that, you know you’re just able to hone in on your skills and get better each day: make the man across from you [better] and you get better.”
Smith acknowledged that Kansas City’s offensive playbook is a big one.
“We get after it [and] we run a lot of plays,” Smith noted. “But [it’s] more so just the verbiage and operation. [When] you’re in one place for eight years, it’s a bit of a change.”
Already the proud owner of a Super Bowl ring, Smith is happy to be part of the Chiefs’ battle-tested offensive line.
“We’ve [all] played a lot of football and a lot of big games — [and] tough games,” he observed. “We’re all smart mentally [and] physically. It’s just [that] more so, we’re tying in each and every individual aspect of who we are and how we play — tying it together and figuring what works and what meshes.
“Just the many things we bring to the table per guy — I would say — is our strength. To be able to run the ball [and] pass the ball is big. We’ve got big, athletic, mobile guys, which goes a long way.”
Smith identified left guard Joe Thuney — who will be right next to him on game days — as the line’s leader.
“He’s very vocal [and] he’s a great player,” declared Smith. “He’s magnificent in the pass game — and then in the run game as well. Any time you play with a guard like that, you’ve got to make sure everything’s clean and good to go. It’s a blessing to be over there and have him next to me.”
Smith, however, is happy to let the eight-year veteran fill his leadership role.
“I’m not a very vocal guy out there,” he admitted. “Obviously, I will talk to my guys on the side and stuff like that. [But] I’m not a ‘rah-rah’ kind of guy. I’ll get myself juiced up and get going. But for the most part, you’ve just got to get out there, find that deep-down [strength] and let it out.
“At the end of the day, we’re all men: here to do a job and get it done. Whatever we’ve got to do to make sure we succeed, that’s what’s going to happen.”
This season, Smith is transitioning from blocking for the now-retired Tom Brady — possibly the greatest quarterback of all time — to protecting the league’s biggest star: Patrick Mahomes. Despite their widely different playing styles, Smith says there’s “not much” difference in the way he blocks for them.
“You’ve still got to protect the spot,” he asserted. “Typically, we’re taught if you give them 10 or 11 or 12 yards, you should be good. If you strive for that [on] each and every set, you’ll be good. Obviously, you have a couple of adjustments — for guys who want to go inside and what-not — that it’ll change.
“[But] for the most part, it doesn’t matter who you put back there. We’ve still got to go out there and do our job.”
While Smith now stands in front of his second future Hall of Fame quarterback, he also now plays with his second Canton-bound tight end. Travis Kelce now rotates into offensive line drills — just like Rob Gronkowski used to do in Tampa Bay.
“It just shows you,” he noted. “As a tight end, you want to be [a finesse player]; you want to just be a receiver — anything like that. To be able to have a guy who’s 10, 11, 12 years in, coming over with the O-line to do drills? It just shows there’s more to it that you can do to get better — [and] be the greatest you can be.
“To have [Kelce] come over is cool. It gives us another break — an extra body. But it just shows the work ethic — and everything [else] that needs to go into it — to be the best.”