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An extra year of experience is a ‘night and day’ difference for Justin Reid

The Kansas City safety sees improvement in both himself and the rest of defense.

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

A week away from their first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the Kansas City Chiefs continue their preparations for what they hope will be another championship season. According to safety Justin Reid — who is now in his second training camp with the team at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph — the difference in his own speed of play between the first and second camps is “night and day.”

“[I’m] not out there thinking,” he told reporters after Saturday’s practice. “[I’m] just out there playing — [knowing] what all the responsibilities are, knowing what my teammates are doing [and] helping get guys organized — and just going out on the field [to] play.

“Our room is all about helping each other learn it faster. So [when] guys ask questions, we answer them. We try and pull guys along as fast as we can. Through as many reps we get out here on the practice field, they’ll get better at it as time goes on.”

While Kansas City’s offense usually gets all the attention — as it should when the quarterback is completing behind-the-back passes in practice — Reid believes it is the defense that has been quietly putting together a solid performance at training camp.

“[It] used to be that if the offense wasn’t scoring a lot of points, that was because maybe the offense had a bad day,” Reid recalled from last season’s camp. “But this year, the defense is playing well, too. So we’re trying to make it harder on our offense. We give them a lot of looks. They give us a lot of looks. It’s competitive — and it’s back and forth every day.”

This competitive edge has been the key to the Chiefs’ success in recent years. As players compete against each other, they help to bring out the best in one another. In Reid’s case, he’s frequently matched against one of the league’s all-time great players: tight end Travis Kelce.

“There’s no better preparation,” Reid said of that matchup. “We’re going against the best offense in the NFL every day. Day-in and day-out, we’re getting their best shot. We’re giving them our best shot. Getting to be in man coverage against Kelce every day, I feel like [other games] should be easy [after] going against the Hall of Famer like that.

“So it’s a lot of fun. We’re competitive. We all work on each other, trying to get each other better, show each other where we might have made an error at. Like, sometimes I coach him up: ‘Hey, I did this. You probably could have done this.’ He lets me know, ‘Hey, I did this. You probably should have done that.’ And you know we get better from it.”

Interestingly enough, these daily competitions against Kelce remind Reid of his first preseason game.

“So my rookie year, the first game I played in preseason was right here in Kansas City at Arrowhead,” he recalled. “And the first guy I guarded was Travis Kelce. He caught like a 12-yard, 14-yard curl on me — and I always remember that.”

Just like it was for him on that day back in 2018, the rookies will have a job to do when the team plays its first exhibition game against the New Orleans Saints next Sunday.

“It’s all about proving yourself to the team — and showing the team what you have,” noted Reid. “The playbook is going to be very simple on game day. It’s going to be very generic across the board. You just want guys to go out and play fast and see what they can do in a live setting.”

But for Reid — now entering his sixth year in the league — his preseason focus is on physical and mental preparation for when the real games begin in September.

“The biggest thing is just make sure you’re sharp,” he explained. “You want to get out there. You don’t want your first play on a live game — [with] live tackling — to be the actual first game of the season. I believe you want to at least have a drive somewhere in each game. So that way, you can get ready. [You can] get mentally prepared [and] get your pregame process right.”

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