ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Chiefs rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman absorbed one of the nastiest hits in training camp on Sunday, and moments later showed his toughness by getting right back in the action.
“We're in training camp, you get hurt, so you got to get up, dust off and just keep playing,” Hardman said after practice Monday.
Hardman took a jet sweep pitch from Patrick Mahomes and followed his blockers to the right. The defense collapsed on Hardman, and he appeared to take a hit from a couple of different directions.
“It just scared me more than anything, got rolled up on a little bit,” Hardman said. “Felt like it was just numb at first, but after you're walking on it and get back, just time to get back to practice. No time to be feeling sorry for yourself.”
Head coach Andy Reid said it's normal to have a “Wow, I just had a whole load land on me” moment in that situation.
“You got about 600 pounds laying on his ankle,” Reid said. “He was able to bounce back, and he's a tough kid.”
Hardman had one of his best days at camp before the hit on Sunday, he continues to demonstrate greater comfort and confidence in the offense. He and quarterback Patrick Mahomes also show improvement with their timing, particularly on deep balls.
“I think our chemistry is growing,” Hardman said. “I think I'm starting to figure out where he wants me to be at on the field. I think he's starting to figure me out as a player, my speed, things I like to do with my routes.”
Hardman expects to get plenty of opportunities in the first preseason game against Cincinnati on Saturday night. It's the reps on special teams, however, that loom largest. Hardman has had difficulties at time finding the handle on the ball in the return game. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Hardman remains “a work in progress” as a returner.
“We've got four preseason games that we have to see him in,” Toub said. “We don't know how he's going to react when the live bullets are coming down there.”
Hardman said he's looking forward to getting the opportunity to prove himself as a returner.
“Coach is on me hard right now catching balls before practice, trying to get as many reps as I can,” Hardman said. “The more you catch balls at practice, the better you get and the more confidence he has in you going into the game.”
Confidence with Hardman in the return game is certainly a two-way street, Toub said.
“He's still getting better and better every day with his catching,” Toub said. “He's got to build confidence in himself, and we have to build confidence in him.”
As the team's top draft pick this season, Hardman may face more pressure than other second-round selections. But Hardman tries to push all that into the background, even avoiding feeling any sense of awe catching passes from Mahomes.
“If you're out there being in 'wow' mode trying to catch balls from Pat, you're not going to ever catch a ball from Pat because you're not going to get on the field,” Hardman said. “It's no time for surreal.”