ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs held practice Wednesday with rookies, quarterbacks and select players, and cornerback Phillip Gaines was among the group moving without limitations during 7-on-7 drills.
Outside of individual position drills, the occasion marked one of the first times Gaines has participated in close to a full practice since undergoing surgery in October 2015 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered in Week 3.
More importantly, Gaines declared he was near 100 percent healthy as he prepares for a position battle for the starting job at right cornerback.
“I’m definitely climbing towards that way,” Gaines said. “There’s definitely some dust to knock off, but you know it feels good to be able to come out here, run around with everybody and it’s the first time playing football since the Green Bay game. So, just feels good to be able to have the opportunity to play and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Gaines’ effort on the field, which included lining up against veteran wide receiver Mike Williams, drew praise from coach Andy Reid following the workout.
“I thought he moved around great,” Reid said. “He took a lot of reps and it looks like he’s put on some weight and some strength. I was happy with what I saw today.”
The 6-0 Gaines, who said he currently weighs 188 pounds, has his head coach’s confidence, which in turn enhanced the young cornerback’s poise.
“I mean anytime you get praise from a respected coach like Coach Reid it definitely boosts your confidence,” Gaines said. “But at the end of the day, you know you still have to work.”
Gaines road to recover from ACL surgery, the first of his playing career, also meant having faith in the procedure and recovery process.
And those are two important factors given the constant pounding to his knee and amount of sudden cuts Gaines will make at the cornerback position.
But Gaines appeared in a good place mentally on his surgically-repaired knee. And it certainly helps knowing the highly-respected physician who performed the operation.
“Dr. (James) Andrews is one of the best surgeons in the world,” Gaines said. “He’s world renowned, and everybody knows him.
“So, if he says my knee’s good, then I have all the confidence in the world in him. You know I’m not scared. Football is football, it’s either going to happen or it’s not going to happen but you can’t be scared out there.”
In the meantime, second-year pro Marcus Peters holds down the left side. But having a healthy Gaines on the field bolsters the competition at right cornerback, which is open after the departure of Sean Smith.
The Chiefs’ other options include rookies KeiVarae Russell, D.J. White and Eric Murray, and the team could consider Marcus Cooper or Steven Nelson, who will likely have first shot at nickel cornerback.
Gaines is expected to have the first opportunity to prove why he should be the starter, but he also knows not to allow the situation get too big despite being the early favorite.
“Nothing is set in stone until the game is here,” Gaines said. “From game-to-game it could change, too.”