Many current players working through training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs are used to the grind that has become famous under head coach Andy Reid. For some, it’s their first run through an NFL camp — and it will feel difficult regardless.
It’s the players coming from their previous NFL teams have noticed the intensity the most. We’ve heard it from multiple free-agent acquisitions, and linebacker Drue Tranquill was the latest to express the difficulty in this preparation for the 2023 season.
“It’s a lot tougher than the previous four camps that I’ve been a part of, for sure,” Tranquill told reporters after practice on Monday. “[Coach Reid] just maximizes every minute of on-field time. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we get four hours, and we’re going to be on the field for four hours.
“He grinds you, he gets the most out of you, and that ultimately goes to winning.”
It’s easy to say a hard practice will translate to superior readiness once the regular season begins, but Tranquill truly believes that to be the case. He sees the logic behind the dog days at the practice field in St. Joseph.
“I think there is something in us as human beings, when we do hard things, we’re able to draw from that later,” Tranquill elaborated. “I think that’s what coach Reid is all about: building this foundation in camp, so when we’re in Jacksonville Week 2, and it’s 90 degrees and 80% humidity, we’re able to draw from that well of difficult circumstances in training camp and apply it to those present situations.”
The long practices may aim to bring the best out of the team in the future, but they can lead to some heated moments in the present. Chiefs fans have seen that come to fruition with tight end Travis Kelce getting into it with teammates and also a mixup between cornerback Jaylen Watson and wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette on Sunday.
That passion can be interpreted one way or the other, but Tranquill pointed to the team’s overall mission as one reason for the intensity getting high.
“It’s just hyper-competitive around here; winning is absolutely everything,” Tranquill reflected. “Egos aside, winning is the ultimate goal. The picture of the Super Bowl ring is on the start of every single slide of every presentation. Whether it’s coach Spags saying, ‘Hey let’s change this up schematically, just to fool (quarterback) Patrick [Mahomes] and win this day in practice.’ You see that with the amount of close games they win on a year-in, year-out basis.”
Tranquill hasn’t won a game in a Chiefs uniform yet, but he can feel why the team is destined for another season with plenty of victories. He could be a significant piece in that, according to early camp reports. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has enjoyed the veteran’s presence so far, using him in many ways.
“It’s nice to have guys that can do more than one thing,” Spagnuolo mentioned to reporters on Monday. “Right now, he has played all three base linebacker positions, he has been in the sub package with Nick, then as the MIKE with another linebacker. That helps us a lot.”
“It’s all new to him, as far as the verbiage and the system. It tells you that he’s pretty intelligent if he is playing that many spots, this early.”
Starting MIKE linebacker Nick Bolton was ill for practice last week. Tranquill stepped into the play-calling role for the day and came away with a positive result.
“I thought it went really well,” Tranquill noted. “I thought guys were lined up, we were playing fast. Certainly, there are always corrections to make, but it felt smooth, comfortable, better than the Spring when I was learning it for the first time.”
However, Bolton is undoubtedly going to be a reliable piece of the defense, which means Tranquill will have to play in complement to him. That should be no problem, given what Tranquill sees as the strengths to his game.
“My versatility as a linebacker,” Tranquill started. “My ability to cover, my ability to rush, my ability to play the run, and my instincts. That’s one thing you can’t teach physically is instincts... all of those things, along with some intangibles and leadership.”
Tranquill is the entire package. He has quickly earned the trust of his defensive coordinator, while also providing a wide array of skills to be used in the Chiefs’ defense.
On top of that, he is working through the toughest camp of his life with good perspective, trusting the culture he is now a part of that the long, hot days will pay off in the quest to Super Bowl LVIII.