The Kansas City Chiefs may have concluded their training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, but the work continues.
Speaking after a reportedly sweltering indoor practice on Tuesday, defensive end Mike Danna explained that his job is not easier, even as the focus has shifted from conditioning for the season to preparing for their first opponent.
"Each day, we're working towards Detroit [and] working towards Week One," Danna revealed. "We just want to continue stacking days — pushing each other [and] competing out there. Even though camp is over, it still means that we still go hard. We still handle business out on that field. I'm excited for the upcoming season and making plays with the team."
Danna missed time in St. Joseph with a calf injury. While he did not play in the Chiefs' first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, he was on the field for 13 snaps during Saturday's 38-10 exhibition victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He feels the injury is behind him.
"I feel great," Danna declared. "I'm 100% — just working back in. We've got a great group of guys ahead of me. You know it's always next man up in that case. But right now, I feel great. I had a great training staff to help me get back and help me with the maintenance. I feel good. Last preseason went well, so I'm excited about stacking the days."
Danna may be counted on more this season to augment the Chiefs' pass rush following the offseason departures of defensive linemen Frank Clark and Khalen Saunders in free agency. Regardless, he will measure success based on his entire unit's performance rather than a specific statistical goal.
"Really, I just measure how the D-Line plays," Danna stated. "Like I said, everybody has individual goals. Of course, everybody wants to have double-digit sacks...but I think it's more effective when the D-Line, as a whole, is rushing as one. That's when things really get to jelling. That's when you can win your one-on-ones.
"I just look at how we play as a whole. We've got to be as one, and it's important that we continue to rep that."
That unit will have some new faces in 2023. One may be former Cleveland Browns first-round pick Danny Shelton. After being on the Chiefs' practice squad most of 2022, Shelton made clear his goals to make the 53-man roster and contribute this season when he spoke on Monday.
"Danny Shelton's a crafty vet," Danna said of his teammate. "He's going a couple years in [Kansas City], and he's a real vet. So, when he comes to camp, he comes ready. He comes in shape. He comes ready to play. Run? You know he's stout — he's a big guy.
"Even in pads, he's a big guy who can move his feet [and] move his hands. There's a lot of improvement I've seen from a lot of guys, but he's been working his tail off."
Another new player the Chiefs will count on for production is rookie pass rusher Felix Anudike-Usomah — who spoke Monday of the tough love he has been receiving from Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen.
Danna has observed Cullen's focus on the first-year player — and he himself has learned some things along the way.
"I think it's a great thing," he said of Cullen's methods. "Joe, he's a wizard. He knows what he's talking about. He's coached tons of great Hall of Famers — great players. When you take information from him, you try to be a sponge. Even when he's coaching Felix, I take it in. I sit back and listen.
"Coach Joe is always throwing gems out there. Him pushing Felix is a great thing. Felix is responding great — he's been improving each day. So, the coaching's soaking in with him. It's exciting to see what Felix has been doing — and we love Coach Joe."
The love is real because of the way Cullen motivates his players.
"I think his intensity," Danna identified, "just the way he coaches, the way he goes about every day, and how he attacks practice — that resonates with your players. That will make your players want to play for you more [and] play for you harder. His energy? They say energy is contagious. You see Coach at the beginning of practice all riled up and yelling — that gets us pumped up during stretch."
As he enters the final season of his rookie contract, Danna has no doubt what a successful season will look like.
"Obviously," he explained, "you have you own individual goals and your own team goals, but my biggest goal is obviously going back to the Super Bowl. But really, just being a good teammate and pushing this D-Line."