ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — It's been more than six months since Chris Jones took the field with his Chiefs teammates, and based on the reception from teammates, coaches and fans, everyone at training camp seems excited to have him back from an offseason holdout.
Head coach Andy Reid didn't notice any rust on Jones despite the time away from the club.
“It was good to have him back and he worked hard,” Reid said. “Tested well today, this morning, and then he came out and did this well. He's been working.”
Jones sat out the club's offseason program as he seeks a contract extension beyond the 2019 season. There was some conjecture whether Jones would report to the club on time, but he drove into training camp and walked into the team's dorm at the stroke of 2 p.m. Friday, the deadline to report.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu hadn't met Jones until his arrival in training camp. But he immediately sees integrity in Jones putting aside his contractual concerns in favor of team goals.
“Most guys in that position, there's a lot of outside noise that dictates what they do,” Mathieu said. “For him to be here, I think that just says a lot about his character, really who he is as a person.
“Like I said, a lot of respect for him, especially from our locker room just by him being here,” Mathieu continued. “He didn't have to come.”
Even teammates on the offensive side of the ball are happy to see Jones back. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said the high-energy Jones brings enthusiasm to the squad.
“For us to get out there and have him building that chemistry with the D-line, there's a lot of new faces but a lot of really good players,” Mahomes said. “So I'm excited for their future and their building together and what they can do on the field.”
Club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said he's delighted to see Jones back with the team.
“We're glad that he made the decision to be here,” Hunt said. “I think it's important for him to be here with the new defensive coaches, the new scheme the new defensive players so that he can figure out his role in it.”
But Hunt didn't sound optimistic about a quick resolution to the contract standoff with Jones.
“Those discussions will take place here in the coming weeks and coming months,” Hunt said. “We would sure like to have Chris be part of the team from a long-term standpoint, but there's a lot of considerations that go into that.”
Temperatures soared near 90 degrees, but a light wind and a quick workout clocking in at just under 90 minutes made the opening day of Chiefs training camp a breeze.
This was a 10-10-10 practice, which consists of 10 plays for the first-team offense, 10 plays for the first-team defense and a 10-minute special teams period. After a stretching period and a round of position drills, the 11-on-11 workout began.
The first play of training camp was not exactly what the fans came to see – a run up the middle by Damien Williams. But Mahomes and the offense started putting on a show, moving to a post route to Sammy Watkins and then a misdirection option play with Mahomes pitching to Watkins on the outside to the right. Mahomes finished 5-of-6 in this round with two touchdowns to Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs first-team defense made its public debut with an unexpected look. Alex Okafor, Xavier Williams, Jones and Frank Clark lined up on the defensive line with Anthony Hitchens, Reggie Ragland and Damien Wilson at linebacker.
Tyrann Mathieu started at strong safety, and he spent much of the practice playing close to the line of scrimmage. Daniel Sorensen started at free safety, with Charvarius Ward at left corner and Bashaud Breeland on the right side. Kendall Fuller came in as the nickel corner only. That's a different look than when Fuller starts at left corner and moves to the slot in substitution packages.
The best defensive play on the first round came on a pass breakup by Wilson. The defense used Mathieu all over the field, ranging from cover safety on left outside to blitzing from inside on the right.
Only Tremon Smith and Mecole Hardman received kicks during the first special teams period. Hardman mishandled the first kick, but seemed to settle down after the miscue.
The first-team offense continued its roll on the second round of 11-on-11, with only a drop by Kelce slowing them down. Watkins caught a ball on a wide receiver screen and made an paralyzing juke move that freed him down the sideline. The first-team defense struggle at times, aside from an interception by D'Montre Wade and a near interception by safety Juan Thornhill.
The Chiefs quarterbacks continue the tradition started under Alex Smith of competing at games during practices, including the regular training camp challenge. The quarterbacks take turns aiming at a cone on top of a tackling dummy, two nets and the crossbar of the goal post. Rookie Kyle Shurmur walked away the winner, but other competitors delighted the crowd. Kelce and Hill also competed, with Kelce drilling the cone on his first throw. Hill landed one in the nets – although it was not the portion of the net at which he was supposed to be aiming. Mahomes took a second turn left handed, nearly hitting the crossbar.
He first-team offense finished up with another strong performance, fueled by a leaping grab in traffic by receiver Byron Pringle, a catch on the ground by tight end Deon Yelder and finishing up with a touchdown on a deep cross from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman.
More than 8,000 fans turned out for the first public practice at training camp. That's the biggest crowd for the club in 10 years at St. Joseph for a workout held on the practice fields and not inside nearby Spratt Stadium.
The crowd roared as soon as it saw Hill bolt past cornerback Dakari Monroe, and Mahomes saw it too. With no safety over the top, Hill bolted down the left sideline and hauled in the perfectly throw ball with the closest defender nearly 5 yards away.
It was one of three Mahomes-to-Hill throws that elicited roars from the crowd. Other nominees include a deep cross over the middle to Kelce for a touchdown and the leaping grab by wide receiver Pringle in traffic on a throw from Mahomes.
Offensive Performer of the Day
Tyreek Hill: Sure, the fans called out “MVP” as Mahomes strolled down the pathway toward the practice field, but it was Hill who won the day in his return to the club. The fans in St. Joseph gave him a thunderous applause, chanting his name as he appeared over the horizon. Hill responded with an emotionally charged dash across the field to more cheers.
Mahomes said having Hill's energy and spirit back on the field gives the offense a charge.
“You want guys like that on the field that are going to keep pushing each other and pushing their teammates to get better every day,” Mahomes.
Hill cemented his triumphant return from a volatile offseason with several highlight-reel plays. Mahomes found Hill early for a long touchdown pass, a fade route down the right sideline. He also later made a leaping catch in traffic along the left side line.
“It looked like he did some good things,” Reid said. “Had a couple of nice grabs, looked fast and quick and all that.”
Defensive Performer of the Day
D'Montre Wade: With many new faces and big names on the team, the little-known cornerback who spent last year on the practice squad announced his presence with authority. Breeland left practice with a thumb injury, opening the door for Wade. He broke up a couple of passes and made an athletic play on a throw from Chase Litton for an interception.
Reid said Wade made the most of his opportunities.
“He earned that interception, he had to work for it, it wasn't just a give me,” Reid said.
Mathieu said Wade picked up where he left off following a strong offseason.
“A lot of guys when they have a great spring, they kind of come back in camp and it takes them a minute to get going,” Mathieu said. “For him to come out and make some plays early on, pick up where he left off in the spring, I think that will take him a long way.”
Breeland left practice after suffering a lacerated thumb early during the workout. The free agent cornerback lined up as the starter on the right side during the first round of 11-on-11 before leaving with the injury. Wade and Keith Reaser rotated through position in his place with the first team defense.
The club placed safety Armani Watts on the non-football injury active list. Reid said Watts suffered a rib injury during the conditioning run test on Saturday morning. He still counts against the 90-player roster.
Rookie linebacker Darius Harris (shoulder) also remains on the non-football injury active list. Rookie defensive end Tim Ward (knee) is on the non-football injury reserve list and does not count toward the roster limit.
13: Number of wide receivers in camp with the Chiefs, and many of them had very good openings days on Saturday. Rashard Davis teamed up with Chad Henne for two back-to-back big plays, and rookie Cody Thompson also made a tough catch. This easily appears as the deepest and most talented wide receiver groups during the Reid era in Kansas City.
Quote of the Day
He's big. I know I'm small, but he's large. I think he'll help. Obviously just watching him last season, Pro Bowl-caliber player, a guy we thought should have made All-Pro. I think the sky's the limit for him.
– Safety Tyrann Mathieu on defensive end Chris Jones
The Chiefs turnaround quickly from Saturday's late afternoon practice, returning to the field at 8:15 a.m. Sunday for the second workout of camp. Admission is free, and the practice should run about two hours and 40 minutes. It's also Season Ticket Member Day, and there will be a team autograph session following practice.