ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – In the Chiefs first full-team practice of training camp on Saturday at Missouri Western State University, coach Andy Reid had his offense trying to entertain a large crowd of fans that settled into the seats around the practice field.
On the second play of team work, with 11 against 11, quarterback Alex Smith dropped back and launched the ball a good 30-plus yards in the air where it was caught by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
The play energized the fans sweltering in the afternoon heat and they decided not to notice that Maclin was helped when cornerback Marcus Cooper pulled up on his coverage and did not go up to contest the throw.
Then, there was more – the next play was another long pass, but Smith couldn’t connect with wide receiver Frankie Hammond on the sideline. A better throw may have led to a catch. Two plays later, Smith threw deep and Maclin’s head-first dive couldn’t come up with the overthrown ball.
That’s how the Chiefs kicked off the real start to training camp with a 100-minute practice without pads.
For the 85 players taking part in the work, it was a short shock to the system to prepare them for what’s ahead. Reid will work his team on Sunday morning, and then Monday morning the full pads go on and it becomes real football.
“The work was good today,” said Reid, who thanked the crowd that showed up for the first and likely shortest practice of training camp. “For some of the young guys that have been out here for the last couple days they hadn’t seen this. It was a nice greeting for them.”
Offensively, the script for Saturday’s work was very basic by design, the first steps in what football folks like to call the install. It was very much a replica of the plays the team ran in its first OTA practice and then mini-camp back in June.
The difference was there weren’t several thousand people watching back then.
“Each and every day is going to be a different story,” said Maclin. “We’ll continue to go out here and get work in. If it’s down the field, it’s down the field. If it’s anything else, it’s anything else. All we can do is go out there and execute the plays.”
There were very few surprises on how the players and squads were deployed for the first day. Safety Eric Berry was not working with the No. 1 defense in the secondary. Instead, he ran with the second team; Ron Parker was at safety with Husain Abdullah.
“We are easing him back in,” Reid said of Berry, who has returned after his bout with Hodgkin lymphoma. “He got a little bit of work in with the twos. Again, we are taking it nice and slow.”
The veterans first full day in St. Joe began with a conditioning test – 15 half-gassers that must be run in 18 seconds or less, with only 45 seconds to catch your breath between runs. Every player that ran on Saturday passed the test.
“That’s probably one of the hardest things we’ll be asked to do,” said outside linebacker Tamba Hali. “Guys can run all day, and they can do eight of them, nine, 12; then it becomes more mental. It shows mental toughness.”
Reid was happy, but not surprised by his entire roster passing the conditioning test.
“I’ve been there as a player; that run kind of hangs over your head,” said Reid. “You do what you have to do to get ready. You don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your team.”
Or, a couple thousand Chiefs fans excited about the start of football.
For those scoring at home
This was the No.1 defense as it lined up on Saturday: left end Allen Bailey, nose tackle Jaye Howard and right end Mike DeVito. At inside linebacker were Derrick Johnson and Josh Mauga, with Hali and Justin Houston outside. The cornerbacks were Sean Smith and Phillip Gaines with Parker and Abdullah at safety.
Offensively, the first unit set up like this: left tackle Eric Fisher, left guard Ben Grubbs, center Eric Kush, right guard Jeff Allen, right tackle Donald Stephenson, tight end Travis Kelce, wide receivers Maclin and Albert Wilson, with Smith, Jamaal Charles and Anthony Sherman in the backfield.
The No. 2 offensive line was left tackle Jarrod Pughsley, left guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, center Mitch Morse, right guard Paul Fanaika and right tackle Derek Sherrod.
Special teams work
In the kicking game, Cairo Santos was the featured player. The second-year kicker made all but one of his field goal attempts, missing his last shot from 50 yards plus when the kick came up short. The rest of his kicks went between the pipes, although he sent most of them to his left and a couple just sneaked in the upright.
They also worked on kickoff return and lined up their No. 1 unit with Junior Hemingway, Frank Zombo, Josh Martin, Dezman Moses, James O’Shaughnessy and Kelcie McCray across the front. The wedge featured Sherman, Daniel Sorensen and Mike Catapano. The first returning duo was Knile Davis and Hammond.
Not participating in the practice were quarterback Tyler Bray (knee/NFI list), wide receiver Chris Conley (knee strain), linebacker James-Michael Johnson (calf strain), tight end Demetrius Harris (foot/PUP list) and nose tackle Dontari Poe (back/herniated disc.)
All but Poe attended the practice and Conley, Johnson and Harris worked in the rehab area. Bray watched the entire practice with the offense.
The snaps for the quarterbacks went 50 percent for Smith, 30 percent for Chase Daniel and 20 percent for Aaron Murray … Parker picked off a Murray throw, but later the second-year quarterback threw a pass in a tight window to wide receiver Jeret Smith … a long throw from Daniel to Smith was broken up by rookie Steven Nelson … both Andrew East and James Winchester got work on deep snaps with the field goal attempts … Sunday’s practice begins at 8:15 a.m.
Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.