Camp Notebook: Chiefs’ Starters Slated for One Quarter in Preseason Opener vs. Bears

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chiefs open their three-game preseason schedule on Saturday at Chicago for a noon kickoff against the Bears, and head coach Andy Reid expects his starts to play approximately one quarter of action.

“We’ll go quarters for the quarterbacks, so we got four quarterbacks, each one will get a quarter, and then their group will kind of follow along with that,” Reid explained. “Try to the young guys the majority of the reps as we go and make sure they get enough work.”

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus told reporters on Thursday he expects his team’s starters to play 15 to 20 plays on average.

Preseason playing time is an estimate, of course. In last year’s preseason opener, Mahomes played just one four-play series before giving way to Chad Henne. Henne led a six-play touchdown drive with the first-team offense before the rest of the starters exited. Henne played until midway into the second quarter before his departure.

For his part, Mahomes wants to get the one thing out of the way he can’t do in training camp.

“I like to get in there and I like to get hit a lick one time,” Mahomes said. “Once you get hit one time, you kind of see what it is to get hit again as a quarterback. I feel like after that you’re good to go.”

The first preseason game is a big moment for rookie players. Safety Justin Reid still remembers his first NFL preseason snap, which came at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs in 2018.

“My first snap was against Travis Kelce,” Reid recalled. “I will never forget that. He ran a curl route, that was where they opened up the game. But it’s exciting, man. It’s your first time to put on the jersey. For the rookies that’s coming in this year, the first time to strap up and actually put on the game uniform, it’s going to be an unbelievable feeling for them.”

Reid’s advice to rookies playing their first NFL game can be boiled down to a single word: “Go.”

“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake,” Reid said. “The game plan will be simple, their game plan will be simple, ours will be simple. You’re going to know what to do. Go out and show what you got, go make a play.”

Observations & notes

Thursday’s training camp practice stands as a training camp oddity, an extensive padded practice coming after a day of rest and immediately before a travel day for the Chiefs’ preseason opener in Chicago. The 2-hour, 5-minute practice took place under sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s.

After the usual stretch, individual and installation periods, the full squad got together for a nine-play team period. Mahomes opened with two incompletions — cornerback Jaylen Watson broke up a pass intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and then Mecole Hardman couldn’t find the ball deep downfield on a broken play. Mahomes finished up competitions to tight end and Noah Gray and Valdes-Scantling. They marked the beginning of a busy day for Gray, who has shown consistency throughout this year’s camp.

After an individual period, the squad broke into groups for a 9-on-7 run period and one-on-one matchups between receivers and defensive backs. In the run session, Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the rotation followed by Jerick McKinnon, Isiah Pacheco and Ronald Jones. The highlights of the one-on-one matchups included cornerback Joshua Williams batting a ball away from Justin Watson for an interception and cornerback Brandin Dandridge catching up to receiver Corey Coleman in breaking up a deep ball along the sideline.

Williams made another nice stop in the following team, breaking up a Chad Henne pass intended for Skyy Moore. The Chiefs still expect Rashad Fenton to be one of the team’s top-three cornerbacks starting the season but his absence has allowed rookies Williams and Jaylen Watson to gain valuable experience working with the first team.

The first special teams period opened up with a run-through for the hurry-up field goal team. It’s a drill for the Chiefs needing a last-second field goal and rushing the unit onto the field for a quick Harrison Butker field goal. Butker was perfect in two tries. After that coordinator Dave Toub conducted a walk-through for the kickoff return team with no return unit on the field.

The squad split up again for the next period with a 7-on-7 session at one end and the always popular one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen. While not the hottest of days, the one-on-one drill included one of the worst throws from Mahomes of all time as the ball slipped out of his hands and went straight to the ground far from the intended target of tight end Jordan Franks.

For the final team period, it was another long-drive day with the first team offense and defense on the field for 15-straight plays. The defense came up with a couple of big plays with cornerback L’Jarius Sneed nearly picking off a Mahomes pass to Hardman, and defensive end George Karlaftis appeared to tip a Mahomes pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. This was also a heavy run period with Edwards-Helaire, McKinnon and Pacheco all taking snaps with the first team.

Pacheco also saw work with the second-team offense, taking snaps in a run-heavy 10-play sequence for the No. 2 units on both sides of the ball. Jones and Tayon Fleet-Davis handed running back duties behind quarterbacks Shane Buchele and Dustin Crum respectively.

The last period was a special teams session for the punt teams, with Hardman, Coleman, Moore and McDuffie handling the returns. Hardman dropped the first punt but was perfect after that. Moore took a second turn on the first rotation after making an unconventional over-the-shoulder catch on his first catch.

Injury report

Defensive end Frank Clark was a surprise absentee from practice on Thursday. Reid said Clark did not practice due to illness. Wide receiver Omar Bayless exited the workout early due to tightness in his lower back.

Safety Zayne Anderson, who left practice early on Tuesday, has been diagnosed with a shoulder subluxation, Reid said. Anderson did not practice but Reid said the injury was “stable.”Wide receiver Gary Jennings (concussion) rehabbed on the sidelines Thursday along with Anderson. Right tackle Lucas Niang (knee) remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Wide receiver Daurice Fountain (groin) and tight end Jody Fortson (quad) both returned to practice on Thursday. Fountain appeared to be a full participant while Fortson, who last practiced July 30, took part in drills but was not on the field for team or 7-on-7 sessions.

“It was good to get Jody some work back out there,” Reid said. “We’re ramping him kind of back up. He was able to do the front part of practice.”

Cornerback Rashad Fenton (shoulder) continues ramping up his activities after returning from the PUP list earlier this week. He is not expected to play Saturday against the Bears.

Coming soon: Danny Shelton

The Chiefs have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with defensive tackle Danny Shelton, but the 28-year-old doesn’t expect to make his training camp debut until the team returns to St. Joseph on Monday. Reid looks forward to seeing what the 6-foot-2, 345-pound Shelton can bring to the Chiefs.

“I think we’ll get a lot out of him,” Reid said. “He’s a big guy, there will be a lot of him here, right? He’s a big kid. He’s a gifted athlete, for as big as he is he’s a gifted athlete.”

Shelton was the No. 12 overall pick for the Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft. He spent three seasons in Cleveland before a trade sent him to New England where he earned a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots in 2018. He moved to Detroit in 2020 before landing with the Giants last season, collecting 31 total tackles and a half sack in 13 games as a reserve.

“He was with the Giants last year, had productive snaps there,” Reid said. “He and I probably could afford to lose a couple (pounds), and I think he’ll do that as we go forward.

What’s next?

The Chiefs travel to Chicago on Friday ahead of their noon Saturday kickoff against the Bears.

The club has an off day on Sunday before returning to training camp on Monday, Aug. 15 for the final four days of practices in St. Joseph. The team has practice starting at 9:15 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before an 8:15 a.m. start Thursday. The final practice is also the team’s military appreciation day and is typically a quick practice of fewer than 90 minutes.

Admission to the final four practices is free but tickets must be reserved on the team’s website. The university collects a $5 parking fee per vehicle.