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Chiefs’ rookie Rashee Rice says he models game after DeAndre Hopkins

The rookie named the five-time Pro Bowler as someone he likes to watch.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

During the offseason, there were many rumors that the Kansas City Chiefs were among the teams interested in acquiring three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. But ultimately, Hopkins signed with the Tennessee Titans instead.

Still, it might be that the Chiefs may have done themselves one better by drafting a younger, cheaper version of Hopkins in the second round of the NFL Draft: former SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice.

“I used to try to compare my game after DeAndre Hopkins,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice at the team’s practice facility. “That’s [been] my favorite wide receiver for a long time. [But] then I got to the same level as him. So I just kind of got to work on myself and see who I become.”

As far as Rice is concerned, it’s not an idle comparison.

“I can compare myself to him as far as being aggressive to the ball and being a playmaker once the ball is in my hands,” said Rice. “As far as comparing myself to him right now? Like I said, I’m just going to keep working on myself to be a guy that is more [yards after the catch].”

Speaking after Saturday’s 38-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals — in which Rice led the team with eight receptions for 96 yards — quarterback Patrick Mahomes compared him to former Chiefs’ wideout Sammy Watkins. But when reporters asked Rice whether he agreed with that comparison, it was news to him.

“You said Pat said it?” asked the wideout.

But once that was confirmed, Rice was on board with the comparison.

“Yes,” he laughed. “If Pat said it? Then, ‘Yes.’”

Through two preseason games, Rice looks like a difference-maker — something he credits to head coach Andy Reid.

“I think Coach has a great way of putting the players [in a good situation],” he explained. “He’s been doing it for so long that he knows exactly where a player can fit in his offense... Wherever coach can put me, [wherever] I can contribute and be a playmaker, I’m going to go to that spot.”

Rice understands that the fastest way to integrate himself into the offense is to learn the playbook inside and out.

“You can never know the playbook too much with Coach Reid,” he said. “The more positions you know on the field, the more you’ll be on the field. So I just feel like as much as I’m in the playbook when I’m here — or when I’m at home — is going to help me contribute to the offense.”

That’s true when he’s being asked to catch passes — and also when he’s assigned to block a defensive end. That’s one of the things he did in Arizona on Saturday night.

“In practice, we were working on that a lot,” said Rice of his blocking skills. “I watched a couple of clips of the tight ends doing it last year. My goal was to not let that big D-end get to the quarterback — and I accomplished my goal on that play.”

According to Rice, it all starts with finishing every play — and not giving up.

“I mean, you’d be surprised,” he noted. “Every time somebody’s got the ball — or doesn’t have the ball — on the field, we’re saying, ‘Finish!” So if I’ve got the ball, I’m making a move on the defender. Whether it looks like he made the tackle or not, I’m acting like he didn’t make the tackle. I’m finishing down the field.”

It’s a mentality that is reminiscent of something former offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said last season.

“Put your hand in the dirt [and] knuckle up [for a] 60-minute dogfight,” he said before the AFC Championship. “Then after that — if we have to go additional minutes — drink some water, get your Kool-Aid. [Then] we got to go do it. We gotta go fight!”

It worked pretty well last time. Let’s see how 2023 goes.

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