Kansas City Chiefs second-year running back Isiah Pacheco returned to practice as a full participant this week, going through these past few days without any limitations. While injuries have kept him away from organized team activities (OTAs) and training camp, Pacheco says he feels comfortable right now, almost as if he was never gone.
“I don’t feel like I’m back-back,” Pacheco told the press after practice on Tuesday. “I was back out there when I was out there in St. Joe, and I felt like I was comfortable breaking with the guys just being able to get as much out of it as I can.”
The Chiefs couldn’t ask for a better rookie season from last year’s seventh-round pick out of Rutgers. Pacheco worked his way into a starting role as the team’s leading running back — a move that was largely viewed as a success. He finished the season with 830 rushing yards on 170 carries, five touchdowns — and, most importantly, a Super Bowl ring.
Forward to his second year, and Pacheco has spent the majority of the offseason recovering from hand and shoulder surgeries. Knowing how physical the young running back likes to play, the Chiefs decided to take a cautious approach, making sure he was completely ready before returning to full practice.
“I wasn’t cleared, and I couldn’t just get out there in the fire,” Pacheco said. “But whatever I could do to maintain that shape and to keep up to tempo I was going to do it. (The) coaches allowed me to do that. I’m thankful for them.”
Although bringing him along slowly was the best long-term solution for the organization, Pacheco admits it was tough for him to be away from practice while rehabbing from injury.
“It’s really tough when you love to compete,” Pacheco admitted. “I love to compete and I love the game, so it was hard watching that, but for the most part, just finding ways to get better, and that was in the classroom as well.”
With his return to practice, Pacheco hopes to get in some preseason action before the games start to matter on September 7 when the Chiefs take on the Detroit Lions. With head coach Andy Reid hinting at some possible preseason action for the running back, Pacheco says he will stay ready — as usual — for if and when his number is called.
”I’m always ready,” Pacheco asserted. “You got to stay ready, so that you don’t have to get ready. For me, I’m just waiting. If my number gets called or not, I’ll be prepared.”
As far as what he is hoping to improve going into the next year, Pacheco says he wants to become more flexible. To him, that is the key to unlocking more explosiveness out of the backfield.
“Be more flexible,” Pacheco explained. “That’s the word I want to use because taking care of my body, as I said before, being able to stretch a lot more. Just finding ways to be looser so I can be more explosive out there.
“Like I said before, it’s just finding ways to get better. Working with the stretch massage therapist and allowing them to tell me this much was a little tighter than this one and finding those little muscles that’s able to allow me to open up more.”
Despite exceeding everyone’s expectations of him, Pacheco says his mentality has not changed. He’s always looking to work harder, to beat the person in front of him and to be a better version of himself after each passing day.
“I’m just unsatisfied,” Pacheco said. “I find there’s more to be done out there and day by day, that’s how I get better. Whatever is next for me to work on tomorrow, I’m going to figure that out as soon as I get in this meeting to the pinpoint that and work on it to get better tomorrow.”