ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — When Chiefs head coach Andy Reid walked off the practice field Monday morning, the fish wasn’t in the boat yet. The fish, in this case, is Orlando Brown Jr.
The fish is on the boat, now, however.
Brown reported to training camp in St. Joseph Monday and is ready to sign his one-year franchise tender of $16.662 million and report to training camp with his teammates. He must complete his physical examination and conditioning test before being cleared to practice.
Once that occurs, the Chiefs can get their starting left tackle back on the field and as soon as he’s ready. The acclimation period is complete, which means Brown can practice fully as soon as he’s cleared by the team’s sports medicine staff.
“You have the right to, I guess, throw him back in and go,” Reid said. “When he gets here, we’ll talk to him, see where he’s at and then be smart with it.”
With just 12 days before the Chiefs step onto the field in Chicago for their first preseason game, Reid said it’s important for Brown to get back with his teammates and the into the rhythm of the NFL season.
“That’s what it is,” Reid said. “It’s hard to mimic the game speed and putting the uniform and so on, helmet and pads on, when you’re doing stuff on your own. You got to go through that to get yourself right, and he understands that.”
Brown will have plenty to catch up on when arrives, Reid emphasized. The team began its offensive installation working during offseason workouts, which means there are 10 days of OTAs, three days of mandatory minicamp and the first five practices of training camp he’s missed.
“Just have to catch up on the new stuff, and then the condition part,” Reid said.
Tight end Travis Kelce said he’s hoping to see Brown back on the field and in the locker room soon.
“That’s one of our leaders right there, everybody in this building loves Big O,” Kelce said. “Hopefully we get him here and get him acclimated as soon as possible. It’s definitely been a little bit of a different locker, he’s such a big dude, such a big personality. Brings a lot of life to the group, we’ll be happy to have him back.”
Notes & Observations
Quick note: it was hot. The honeymoon in St. Joseph ended Monday morning — when the final horn blared following a 97-minute practice it was 84 degrees with 76% humidity, for a feels-like temperature of 93 degrees. Add on that it was the first padded practice of training camp, and it’s no surprise that players were working overtime to stay hydrated and a few veterans found their way into the shade to cool down.
Coaches streamlined the practice a bit, progression quickly through the stretch, individual and installation periods before a quick nine-play team period. Patrick Mahomes connected on his first three passes to Jerick McKinnon Daurice Fountain and JuJu Smith-Schuster before narrowly missing on a deep crosser route to Mecole Hardman. Backup tight end Jordan Franks — who has had a very solid camp thus far — made a very nice junk on safety Zayne Anderson on the sideline for extra yards.
Next up came the 9-on-7 run period on the left practice field with 1-on-1 matchups between receivers and defenders on the right field. Wide receiver Corey Coleman — another player putting stacking up a strong camp performance — opened with a nice catch against cornerback Nazeeh Johnson. One of the highlights came from rookie receiver Skyy Moore, who used a double move to get past cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and then made an outstretched diving catch toward the sideline. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling made a nice two-handed catch above his head against cornerback Trent McDuffie. Smith-Schuster and backup quarterback Shane Buechele teamed up for a solid back-shoulder catch on the right sideline.
Next up was a team period — the scenario started with 7 minutes on the clock and based on the tempo the offense was down by 11 or more. Mahomes and the first team moved quickly across midfield after a first down catch by Travis Kelce. On second down the ball appeared to slip out of Creed Humphrey’s hands and rolled to Mahomes, who threw the ball out of bounds. On third down linebacker Jermaine Carter broke up a pass to McKinnon. Mahomes missed connection to Hardman on fourth down, but an apparent flag kept the offense on the field. On the next play, Mahomes fired a bullet to tight end Noah Gray — the ball popped off his hands and downfield into the grasp of Smith-Schuster, who raced into the end zone for the score with 4:55 left on the clock. The two-point conversion was no good after the pass from Mahomes skipped off the turf into the hands of Moore.
It took less than a minute, however, for Chad Henne to find the end zone on his drive. After quick throws to running back Isiah Pacheco and Coleman and an incompletion to Fountain, Henne hit receiver Justin Watson on an inside slant and he went off to the races, outdistancing safety Bryan Cook providing support. The two-point try here failed as well, with linebacker Jack Cochrane picking off a pass intended for Fountain.
After a special teams period during which kicker Harrison Butker converted all eight of his kicks, the squad again split up, with 7-on-7 on one end of the field and 1-on-1 duels between offensive and defensive linemen at the far end of the field. In the first look in contract drills for rookie edge rusher George Karlaftis, he excelled in his matchups. Humphrey and left guard Joe Thuney also convincingly won their matchups. In the 7-on-7 period, the safety Anderson rebounded from his earlier miscue and picked off two passes, one from Buechele and the other from Henne.
Another team period came next, which is where the Chiefs faced a brief scare from Mahomes (more in the injury report down below). Defensive end Frank Clark opened the period with a defiant batting down of a Mahomes pass at the line of scrimmage. Cornerback Deandre Baker also made a nice break up of a Henne pass targeting Watson.
The team finished with a special teams period focusing on kick returns. Monday was also Chiefs alumni day, and a few dozen former players and family members came on the field at the of practice. Reid introduced the former players, and a few also spoke to the squad before practice finished.
The Chiefs dodged a scare late during the workout following the final rep for Patrick Mahomes in the team period. It appeared the defensive might have jumped the snap count early, and an offensive lineman got blocked into Mahomes, stepping on his left foot. Mahomes briefly entered the medical tent with Rick Burkholder, the team’s vice president of sports medicine and performance, but quickly exited and returned to the sideline. He returned to the field for the final set of drills with his fellow quarterbacks but Reid gave him the all-clear after practice.
“Yeah, he got stepped on, he’s OK,” Reid said. “He’s fine.”
Tight end Jody Forston didn’t practice after suffering a quad strain on Saturday after hauling in a pass from Mahomes and heading into the touchdown for a long score. He attended practice Monday as an observer wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg but Reid is optimistic he’ll be back soon.
“It doesn’t look too bad at all,” Reid said. “He’s swinging right back into it, think it could be a few days and get him back out there.”
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap remains away from the team for personal matters but is expected to appear at camp on Wednesday. Three players — cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder), right tackle Lucas Niang (knee) and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho (leg) remain on the physically unable to perform list and are not practicing.
Towel boy to starting lineup
It’s not the first time free-agent linebacker Elijah Lee has attended Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph. The first time, however, his role was much different than it is now.
When the Chiefs relocated their training camp to the Missouri Western State University campus, Lee attended St. Joseph Central High School, and he worked at the camp during his freshman and sophomore years.
“I was a towel boy, give the water,” Lee said. “I got to hand over a towel to Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ Now to come back to be in this position, be able to give back, help in the community, wherever I can, this is a great opportunity.”
Lee also recently signed on as a spokesperson for Mosaic Life Care based in St. Joseph. He recently attended an event focusing on children setting goals and their mental health.
“As a kid, you’re always asking why and trying to understand,” Lee said. “But once you grow up and learn the right nutrition, the right mental health can take you further.”
Lee is entering his sixth NFL season and first in Kansas City. The Chiefs signed Lee in part due to his special teams play but he’s currently lining up as the starting strong-side linebacker alongside Nick Bolton in the middle and Willie Gay Jr. on the weak side.
“As a vet, you take advantage of every opportunity,” Lee said. “There’s no excuses whenever you’re a vet, and that’s kind of what you harp on to the younger guys, like, ‘It’s time to catch up.’ It doesn’t matter what year you are. If they draft you, they’re bringing you into play. Even undrafted, brining you through free agency, you just got to take advantage of it, extra hours in, ask questions.”
The Chiefs are back on the field for training camp practice No. 6 on Tuesday morning starting 9:15 a.m. It’s expected to be another warm morning in St. Joseph with temperature in the 80s during practice and a high of 99 degrees in the forecast.
Quarterbacks, running backs and specialists are scheduled to sign autographs after practice, which means a larger than usual crowd is likely. Tickets for the practice are free but must be reserved on the team’s website. The university charges a $5 parking fee per vehicle.
The Chiefs also practice Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 9:15 a.m. before an off day on Friday.