Chiefs enjoy a ‘lighter’ side of practice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Every Friday before the start of practice, a group of Chiefs players prepare for drills to get warmed up.

They form two lines lined up on opposite sides of a section of the field, one behind a player already positioned wide right of the line of scrimmage. The first player in line looks back to the coach holding the football, then takes off down the field once he sees the signal, a pat on the ball.

The player either runs a fade, a go-route or even an impromptu slant. A few do a little shake-and-bake move before running the route and the pre-route movement is likely enough to cause the ground to vibrate.

With the ball in the air, the end result isn’t often what a casual observer would expect during a pass-catching drill, as there’s not much poetry in motion in precise route running with a lot of these players. Some actually catch the ball, while others see it bounce off their hands to fall harmlessly to the ground, all to the amusement of teammates observing the action.

“That’s ugly, that’s ugly,” wide receiver Donnie Avery said with a chuckle. “That should be on ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos,’ that’s how ugly and funny it is. It’s kind of a change-up and we like looking at that.”

Indeed, the players going through the receiving drills aren’t wide receivers, running backs or tight ends.

Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to spot numbers ranging from 61 to 79 identifying the group as offensive lineman.

“It’s called Pat-and-Go,” second-year offensive lineman Donald Stephenson said. “But we call it Fat-and-Slow.”

Whatever they want to call the workout, it’s clearly a hit with the offensive linemen.

Stephenson, who didn’t do the drills last year with the Chiefs, said he believed it was installed by first-year offensive line coach Andy Heck, who brought it to Kansas City from Jacksonville.

“It’s something new, just a fun way to get warmed up, loosen up before a lighter practice, but it gets us going,” Stephenson said. “We think it’s funny sometimes looking over at the wide receivers and they’ll be watching and laughing at us, so it’s kind of cool.”

Like Avery, wide receiver Dexter McCluster gets a kick out of watching the linemen catching passes and sometimes can’t help but laugh.

“It’s a funny sight,” McCluster said. “Those guys, they think they’re athletes – some of them are – but it’s always fun to see how they look and see if they can catch the ball.”

Meanwhile, lineman Geoff Schwartz said he’s done the drills before with previous teams, but Kansas City is the first place where he’s had coaches throwing the football.

Regardless who throws the ball, he enjoys participating in the weekly drills and said there is a friendly competition among the lineman.

“It’s a fun Friday thing,” Schwartz said. “It’s a good warm-up, gets the spirits going a little bit.”

Lineman Rokevious Watkins said the workout is “real fun” and different. He likes the drills because it gives the offensive line a perspective on what the wide receivers go through.

“It’s good to step outside the box to get warmed up a little bit in a different way and see what the little guys go through,” Watkins said. “It’s fun.”

Center Rodney Hudson agreed, adding some of his fellow linemen get creative with their routes.

“It’s something we’ve never done before,” Hudson said. “We definitely have fun with it. Guys try different things out there, one-handed catches and stuff, so we just try to have fun with it.”

Hudson’s backup, Eric Kush, said the Friday routine is a good way to lighten their day and it helps build camaraderie.

“We’re grinding all day thinking about this, thinking about that, and then go out there and watch a bunch of fat guys running around,” Kush said. “It’s something nice for us.”

So which offensive lineman has the best hands? Surely the wide receivers have an easy answer to the question.

“I’m going to let them argue that one out,” Junior Hemingway said with a laugh. “I don’t want to pick sides or they’ll be mad at me.”

Avery took the same stance of remaining neutral.

“I would have to say it’s all equal,” he said with a grin. “Keep it positive, team first, everybody is the same.”

Still, McCluster said he’d have to watch every player go through, but then decided to stick with a player who had ties to his alma mater.

“Rishaw Johnson went to Ole Miss, so I’m going to go with Rishaw Johnson,” McCluster said.

Not exactly an unbiased pick, but often the best answer is found directly at the source.

“If you ask Schwartz, he’ll tell you he has the best hands,” said Kush, who admits to having “rocks for hands.”

“I think it’s Rokevious Watkins,” said Stephenson, whose locker is next to Kush’s.

What about the worst hands?

“Jeff Allen,” Stephenson emphatically answered.

“He has tape on his hands,” Kush said. “I don’t know.”

“No excuses,” Stephenson said.

When asked to address his alleged inability to catch passes, Allen showed his friendly competitive side.

“Who started this rumor?” the Chiefs starting left guard said. “Let me tell you something. Who has the best hands? I do. Hands down. The guy who started the rumor has the worst hands.”

Ultimately, the best argument for the best hands was located three lockers down from Kush with the player he originally said to ask.

“I wear a cast on my thumbs, a little soft cast, and I catch every ball, so take those off and what do you think you’re going to get?” Schwartz said. “You’re going to get the perfect hands.”

It’s indeed tough to argue against perfection.