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Danny Shelton is determined to make an active roster in 2023

Kansas City’s veteran defensive tackle is not settling for another year on the practice squad.

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Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

During this preseason, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive line has been under a spotlight. One of the biggest shadows has been cast by defensive tackle Danny Shelton — and not just because he’s listed at nearly 340 pounds.

The 30 year old is the only lineman on the Chiefs’ first or second-team defense to earn a sack during preseason. According to PFF, Shelton is tied with four teammates for the most tackles along the defensive front (2).

Against the New Orleans Saints, he even stood out by leaping onto a pile after running down an outside handoff.

It was a good sign that Shelton is feeling like his old self: a former first-round pick who once amassed 61 tackles in a season with the New England Patriots.

“That was like the old Danny,” Shelton said of the play when he spoke to reporters after the team’s practice on Monday. “Back in the day, I used to be flying everywhere. It felt great being out there, running with the guys.”

Shelton’s current version of himself stands in sharp contrast to the player the Chiefs saw last year: a practice-squad player who was only needed for one game. This year, he is working to earn an active role — whether that’s in Kansas City or not.

“My mindset is not to make this team, but to be on the field,” Shelton emphasized. “I want to win my third ring. In order to do that, I need to be on the field and contribute. [That’s] not to say being on the practice squad last year, I didn’t contribute — but that’s not the lifestyle I want to live.”

He’s familiar with that lifestyle. Shelton played 13 games with the New York Giants in 2021. In fact, before signing with the Chiefs a year ago, he played in 12 games or more during each of his previous seven seasons.

In that time, he won a championship with the Patriots. His second ring came with the Chiefs last season. As a practice-squad player, he opted to watch the team win Super Bowl LVII with his family. As he observed, he felt inspiration.

“Being on the sideline last year, it kind of re-movitated me,” Shelton recalled. “The Super Bowl? It motivated me to get back into it [and] get back in shape — and that was my goal coming into training camp: be locked in and be ready to win my third ring. That’s here — and wherever I go.”

NFL: JUL 23 Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shelton has done everything possible to prove he’s serious — including trimming his overwhelming physique. Around this time last year, the nose tackle recalls weighing around 350 pounds. But now — thanks to a change in his diet — he believes he weighs about 12 pounds less.

“I used to do intermittent fasting,” Shelton shared, “but then I got stuck; it wasn’t working anymore. [So] I did carb cycling in March in OTAs — and it worked like magic for me. Energy has been great, I feel great, my joints feel great — everything.”

So far, Shelton’s attempt to revitalize his career is off to a great start. While he has one more preseason game to prove himself, he’s fighting an uphill battle in Kansas City — where trusted veteran Derrick Nnadi and rookie draft pick Keondre Coburn are ahead of him on the depth chart.

Still, the Chiefs have put a year into helping Shelton progress back into playing shape; they may see it as a waste to see that investment come to fruition elsewhere. Besides... Shelton wants to stay.

“I love being here,” he admitted. “That would mean the world to stay here and have the family come out.”

Shelton has shown he deserves a chance at actually playing in the NFL this season. If he can’t do that in Kansas City, don’t expect him to be the type of player who will return to the practice squad.

For this ninth-year defensive tackle, it’s a 53-man roster... or bust.

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