KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs have 10 cornerbacks on the roster for organized team activities, but the group won’t be at full strength until the three-day mandatory minicamp on June 16-18.
Rookies Marcus Peters, the Chiefs’ first-round pick out of Washington, and Steven Nelson, a third-round pick out of Oregon State, fall under the NCAA quarter system, which is based on a school’s academic year.
Peters and Nelson have been absent because their respective universities won’t hold commencement ceremonies until June 13.
The Chiefs, however, were fully prepared for the duo’s nonattendance and have maintained constant contact to ensure their readiness.
“It’s been going well,” defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas said. “It’s a three-way thing. (Defensive assistant/secondary coach) Al Harris and (coaching assistant) Dino Vasso send all the installments to them – day-by-day and week-by-week – and any questions they have, they’re answering it. So mentally, they’ll be ready when they come back.”
It also helps the Chiefs have recent experience dealing with a former Pac-12 player under the NCAA quarter system.
“We had to do it with De’Anthony (Thomas) last year,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “You just hope they can get as many reps when they come back to the mandatory camp as they can. And it’s just the way it is.”
Nevertheless, Thomas concedes an existing challenge of not having Peters and Nelson present for OTAs, pointing out the difference between studying from afar to the actual implementation of tasks on the field.
“I think the daily routine of competing every day and getting the new material right now,” Thomas said on the pitfall of not having Peters and Nelson in OTAs, “and then coming out and executing it in full flow.”
There is also another area the two rookies are missing in practice, one they will need to adjust to once they hit the field with veteran teammates.
“I guess the speed of the game,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “It doesn’t really change much from college for us on the outside. It’s one-on-one’s out there. We’re a press-man team. I’ve got the receiver in front of me, but the ball does come out quicker, the quarterbacks are more accurate, precision passing is amazing in the NFL compared to college.”
Peters and Nelson participated in the three-day rookie minicamp on May 16-18, and that experience allowed an opportunity for valuable practice repetitions.
The rookie minicamp also afforded the pair an understanding of what the Chiefs defensive scheme calls for outside of a meeting room environment.
“They were here earlier and both of those guys learned real well,” Thomas said, “so they’ll be OK.”
Still, what was missing during the rookie minicamp in mid-May can’t be taught in a classroom.
The Midwest is notorious for summer heat and humidity, two weather factors the players didn’t experience playing college football on the West coast.
Peters, a native of Oakland, Calif., and Nelson, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., won’t have the benefit of slowly acclimating to the local weather conditions, but Thomas didn’t appear concerned.
“One of them grew up in Georgia and the other one grew up in California,” Thomas said. “Both of them are really used to the heat, so they said the heat won’t bother them. But we asked them to get in tip-top condition because we don’t have much time to waste and we don’t want them to get injured. But they’ll be ready to go.”
The distance-learning program the Chiefs have incorporated for Peters and Nelson is apparently going well, and both are staying on top of what the Chiefs are sending to help prepare for minicamp.
Having veteran teammates ready to welcome the rookies with open arms will also play in a role in assisting the transition from college to the fast pace of the NFL.
Smith admits he hasn’t spoken to the either rookie cornerback, but the seventh-year pro said he looks forward to getting on the field with them.
“I’m definitely excited,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to work with young guys. As crazy as it sounds, I am the older guy in the room now, so I can’t wait to get there and work with them.”
Smith’s willingness to take on a leadership role and show Peters and Nelson the ropes impressed Thomas.
“It’s real big,” Thomas said. “He can tell them the pitfalls, the pros and the cons, and also to have (free safety) Husain (Abdullah) back there – he’s a good leader – so right now with two leaders back there, Husain and Sean Smith, they’ll do a good job with those guys.”