ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The moment Trey Smith learned he would open Chiefs training camp as the right guard with the No. 1 offense could not have been less dramatic.
“When we walked on the field,” Smith said of the moment he learned of his starting nod. “Whenever just (offensive line) coach (Andy) Heck told us to lineup for the day.”
There hasn’t been much drama since then, either, as Smith continues running with the first-team offense. He’s impressed both in team drills and in one-on-one matchups against the likes of Chris Jones and Jarran Reed.
There are two big lessons Smith says he’s learned early in his NFL career.
“One, guys in the league are a lot stronger than college, that’s the first thing,” Smith said. “And just understanding that everything you do as an offensive lineman is so small, so detailed and so technical that just one overstep of the foot, one hand didn’t get placed properly, you can end up on your butt.”
That hasn’t happened much to Smith at training camp. Instead, it’s usually the rookie delivering the pancake block on a defender. He’s hoping to experience that sensation Saturday night in his preseason debut when the Chiefs visit the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s going to be a good feeling if I get one,” Smith said. “But right now I’m just so locked in on doing my assignment, just finishing people the right way, because ultimately I want the team to be successful, this offense to keep being dominant and successful.”
Head coach Andy Reid added his voice to the chorus of praise for Smith after Sunday’s practice.
“He’s a smart kid, he works hard and is getting better every day,” Reid said. “He’s still got room to grow and that’s what he’s working on.”
Smith gets praise for football IQ but he feels there’s still much for him to learn. He’s been focusing on improving his hand placement and he’s seeking more consistent in his own performance. He understands what’s required and expected from anyone, even more so for a rookie, in winning a starting job for a Super Bowl contender.
“Bring it everyday, because at the end of the day they have that much faith and confidence in me, I have to perform on the field every day,” Smith said. “That’s my job now. I got to do a better job.”
The Chiefs opened practice Sunday under cloudy skies but anticipated getting a full practice in front of a large crowd on Family Fun Day at camp. Less than 40 minutes into practice, however, a heavy rain shower with lightning in the area forced the team indoors for the remainder of the practice.
The club did get stretch, individual drills and an installation period completed before heading inside. Indoor practices are closed to the public, and the reporters are limited to only recapping the highlights. Some of the most notable plays of the day:
- The first of three big defensive plays during 11-on-11 started with a defender — differing accounts say either Rashad Fenton or Tyrann Mathieu — forced a fumble by punching the ball out of the hands of Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
- On the very next play, Mathieu scooped an interception against Patrick Mahomes on a pass intended for Mecole Hardman.
- It was nearly a trifecta of turnovers on the following snap as Charvarius Ward stayed step-for-step with Hardman and forced an incompletion on a deep throw down the right sideline.
- Wide receiver Byron Pringle found the end zone twice during seven-on-seven periods, hauling in balls behind the secondary on deep routes into the end zone.
- Add another red-zone touchdown for Marcus Kemp, who finished off a successful two-minute offense for the No. 2 team with a reception from Chad Henne.
- Wide receives Daurice Fountain and Maurice Ffrench each hold in deep touchdowns during seven-on-sevens. Fountain hooked up with Henne on his touchdown against Deandre Baker.
- The hardest hit of the day came when safety Will Park met running back Darwin Thompson on a run in the middle of the field. The pads smacked hard but neither player went down, eliciting cheers from both sidelines proclaiming their player won the encounter.
Play of the day: No doubt on this one. During a full team period, tight end Travis Kelce put a double move on Dan Sorensen to break open on the right side. If what wasn’t enough, Kelce then turned around and hauled in a bullet from Mahomes with one, hand, cradling it to his chest and turning upfield for a big gain.
The club made a couple of moves over the weekend, starting with placing offensive lineman Darryl Williams on the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday. He does not count toward the 90-man roster.
On Sunday the club placed tight end Nick Keizer on the reserve/retired list. The 26-year-old started training camp on the non-football injury list due to a back issue and returned to practice on Saturday. Keizer played in all 16 games for the Chiefs last season with six catches for 63 yards.
The club also signed offensive lineman Bryan Witzman to the active roster. The 31-year-old Witzmann has played in 40 NFL games in his career, including 28 games with 13 starts for the Chiefs in two previous stints with the club.
That leaves the Chiefs with 89 players on the active roster. The team is currently leaving on roster spot open for the eventual return of Williams from the COVID-19 list.
Defensive tackles Derrick Nandi (undisclosed) and Tyler Clark (neck) both started practice on Sunday but exited early due to injuries. Wide receiver Demarcus also left practice early due to an illness.
Wide receiver Chad Williams (groin) returned to practice on a limited basis.
Seven players attended practice but worked on only in the training tent: linebacker Willie Gay (concussion protocol), right tackle Mike Remmers (back), right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (hand), defensive end Alex Okafor (hamstring) and tight end Evan Baylis (ankle). Offensive lineman Kyle Long (leg) remains on the physically unable to perform list while defensive end Malik Herring (knee) is on the non-football injury list.
Wide receiver Antonio Callaway (bone bruise) and offensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho (knee) did not attend practice.
NFL teams have just three preseason games this season instead of four, and Reid has already determined how he will handle the division of snaps for the first, second and third teams.
“I’ll keep it relatively the same that we would through three games,” Reid said.
That would likely mean one or two series for the starts in the first game and a longer stretch in the second game, perhaps into the second quarter. It wouldn’t be a surprised to see backup quarterback Chad Henne take a series with the first team offense.
The third game would serve as a dress rehearsal for the regular season with the starters playing the first half and possibly into the third quarter. The third preseason game kicks off 16 days before the season opener.
Coaches and general managers also face another course correction this year stemming from the latest collective bargaining agreement. Instead of one major roster reduction from 90 to 53 during the final weekend of the preseason, teams have three roster reductions:
- Aug. 17, 3 p.m. CDT: Reduce from 90 players to 85
- Aug. 24, 3 p.m. CDT: Reduce from 90 players to 80
- Aug. 31, 3 p.m. CDT: Reduce from 80 players to 53
The fourth preseason game is normally one of the biggest opportunities for players on the bubble or longshots to make the roster to showcase their talents to their own club as well as 31 other teams. Teams may find more snaps, especially on special teams, for players in competitive positions.
“We want to try to get evaluations on the guys here, Reid said. “Now there are cuts that take place every Tuesday after the game. You want to make sure that you’re not letting guys go that you think can help you.”
“I think we should be running that every practice, man. Let me work these hands a little bit. Yeah, we were just having some fun and that was a good day. Hopefully that sticks in the playbook.”— Chiefs OL Andrew Wylie on his touchdown catch in practice last week
The Chiefs kickoff practice at 9:15 a.m. Monday in St. Joseph. It’s the team’s final padded practice before they kickoff the preseason Saturday night at San Francisco.
The team’s 9:15 a.m. practice on Tuesday is open exclusively to season ticket members. The club has an off day on Wednesday followed by another quick workout on Thursday morning.
Tickets for most training camp practices are free but fans must reserve tickets online in advance. That includes Tuesday’s season ticket member event.