ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Not long ago Cameron Erving might have let bouncing at all five positions in the span of a single practice might deflate his spirits and eat away at his concentration on the field.
“Not having time to be able to focus on one thing, it makes your mind go to every little thing that could go wrong,” Erving said, “or every little thing that you have to think about when you basically just have to get in there and play football.”
Four years into the NFL, however, and Erving not only came to grips with his versatility but now embraces the opportunity.
“For a while I took it as a curse but it’s been a blessing to just be able to learn all the ins and outs of all the positions,” Erving said. “It took a while to learn how to be versatile, if that makes sense. I could go in and step in and do something, now it’s becoming a little bit more easy just being able to go in and execute the offense.”
Erving has always be a Swiss Army knife of sorts for his coaches. He started his college career at Florida State playing 16 games at defensive tackle before moving to the offensive side of the ball his sophomore season. He earned All-ACC honors as a left tackle. When an injury knocked out starting center Austin Barron, Erving moved again to center for his senior campaign.
The Cleveland Browns selected him with the 19th overall pick of the 2015 draft and moved him to yet another new position at offensive guard. When Alex Mack left Cleveland via free agency, Erving shuffled back to center.
“The NFL is a crazy business,” Erving said.
The Chiefs acquired Erving during last year’s preseason for a fifth-round pick. The Chiefs envisioned moving him back to tackle where they felt his 6-foot-5, 313-pound frame might better fit. The move provided Erving a clean slate with a team that coveted him.
“It definitely helped me,” Erving said. “It was definitely good for me to get a change of scenery and get here to get a fresh start.”
But injuries along the offensive line forced the Chiefs to shuffle their plan. Erving found himself starting at right guard three games last season. He also started at left tackle in Week 17.
With starting center Mitch Morse sitting out offseason workouts recovering from foot surgery, Erving moved yet again to center. Now with Morse healthy, Erving may finally find at home at left guard.
“My whole life I’ve wanted to be great,” Erving said. “I wanted to be the best at what I did and now I have an opportunity to do that.”
Playing alongside Zach Fulton last season also affected Erving’s outlook on his versatility. Fulton filled the utility role during his four seasons in Kansas City, joining the team as sixth-round draft pick from Tennessee. He signed a four-year, $28 million contract with Houston this offseason.
“Being around Zach definitely made me want it a little bit more,” Erving said. “His journey was different. I’m hungry to go get whatever.”
The biggest lesson he drew from Fulton was to stop worrying about where he was on the field.
“I learned a lot from Zach as far as how he just slid from each position seamlessly, just knew the ins and outs of the offense,” Erving said. “That comes with time of course. But I definitely learned a lot from Zach as far as his approach to the game and just narrowing things down and trying not to think about too much.”
Head coach Andy Reid early this week praised Erving for his play at multiple roles so far in camp.
“You know he can play all three positions and the fact that he got in and was able to play center,” Reid said, “you have to know everything there, you’re in control and he did a nice job with that.”
Due to his versatility, Erving often gets asked about his preferred spot on the line. A year ago he might have told you he preferred one position over another. But not now.
“I just like playing ball, love playing ball,“ Erving said. “Wherever I can get in there and be effective I’ll go in there and do it.”