ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Chiefs running back Charcandrick West has been hard to miss through the early part of training camp with and without pads.
That is, unless one happens to be on defense trying to slow down the second-year pro.
The 5-10, 205-pound West picked up where he left off in organized team activities, displaying explosion through a hole and exceptional receiving skills out of the backfield.
“I’m just seeing everything,” West said. “I know once I get there, nobody is catching me. That’s how I feel. I never feel like I can be caught by anybody. It’s a good feeling just seeing everything, watching everything develop and hitting it.”
West said his speed became a topic among defensive teammates in the locker room, and he often responds to question on his 40-yard dash time, which was a wind-aided 4.27 during his Pro Day workout last year.
Teammates are now accustomed to what can happen if he gets to the open field, but that wasn’t the case when he first arrived in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Abilene Christian.
“Last year they were surprised,” he said, “but now they know I’m a fast guy.”
The 24-year-old West, a native of Springhill, La., spent the first part of the 2014 season on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster in Week 11. He appeared in six regular-season games and played on 65 total snaps, with 61 coming on special teams.
His contributions on offense were minimal playing behind Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, but West is making a case to see more action this season as the team’s No. 3 running back given his skill set.
“He’s got great quickness, so that’s a positive from that standpoint,” coach Andy Reid said. “It makes him a little bit different from the other two. He’s a little bit smaller; it’s a different look than the other two guys in a positive way.”
West offers a change-of-pace option in 2015, but he admits it was just a year ago the playbook overwhelmed him.
Having a regular season to grasp the concepts along with two offseasons to apply the lessons has made a big difference.
“Once you know the offense, you can just go play, show your ability and just have fun,” West said. “Last year, I was out here hesitant. I knew what to do, but I was just scared. ‘Am I going to mess this up?” or who is going to yell at me? Now, I’m just out here having fun.”
West’s emergence in training camp came at a bittersweet price, however.
He replaced Cyrus Gray on the active roster last season after Gray went down with an ACL injury, and the recent release of Gray opened the door for West to see more repetitions.
West and Gray are former roommates and remain close friends.
“That was heartbreaking,” West said of learning the Chiefs parted ways with Gray. “I still talk to him every day, just try to keep him up. I know we were fighting for the same position, but it’s different. All the running backs, we’re like brothers. I know we’re all fighting for the same position, but we all want to see the best of each other. That was hard for me.”
Despite the sadness, West said Gray offered words of wisdom.
“He just told me, ‘Man, don’t keep your head down. I’m going to be good; you just keep doing what you’re doing,’” West said. “Like yesterday, he texted me, ‘I heard you’re lighting it up.’ He said to keep doing that. That’s my brother. Outside of football, we’re going to all be together as a family.”
The Chiefs have worked West on special teams as punter Dustin Colquitt’s personal protector, a key role previously held by Gray.
West said Gray spent a lot of time teaching him how to handle that position and what to expect, and West has applied that to the field while keeping his good friend in mind.
“I’m just taking what he taught me,” West said. “He’s not here right now, so I’m playing for both of us.”
The competition at the running back position will continue through training camp.
And the Chiefs have options on the roster to consider at the No. 3 spot between West, Darrin Reaves and fullback Spencer Ware, who can play tailback.
West, however, should have the edge given his experience in the scheme and what he has shown through OTAs, mandatory minicamp and the first five practices of training camp.
But don’t expect the early success to change how West prepares.
“I’m going to come out here and approach it even like last year when I was on the practice squad,” West said. “I came out there every day and approached it like I was preparing for a game on Sunday because you never know what will happen. I’m blessed to have this opportunity to be up for the No. 3, but I’m working for No. 1. Just keep working like I always have.”