ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Despite a looming four-game suspension to start the season, newest Chiefs cornerback Morris Claiborne said he had options for where to play in 2019, but one reason stood out for choosing Kansas City.
“They've got one of the best offenses in the league,” Claiborne said after his first practice with the club on Monday. “Added a couple of pieces here in the offseason on the defense. I just feel like it's a good club, and I feel like it's a good chance to play in the playoffs and play for a Super Bowl.
Head coach Andy Reid said general manager Brett Veach “studied him like crazy” and felt good about adding the eighth-year veteran to the team's secondary.
“He's played in this league for a few years here now, and he's a good, solid player and you can't have enough of those guys, especially at that position,” Reid said. “We just get him into the mix and see how he does. I've competed against and I thought he was a good player.”
The NFL last week handed down a four-game suspension to Claiborne for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. The 29-year-old player didn't elaborate on the details of the suspension, but accepted responsibility and expressed his regret for the setback
“I own up to everything I do, I'm a grown man,” Claiborne said. “I can't do nothing about that situation, I'm sorry it happened. I can't do nothing about it, I can only move on right now.”
The one-year deal for Claiborne reportedly includes $1.5 million in incentives that could push the value to more than $3 million this season. But for now, Claiborne says it's more about football for him than the money.
“I put myself in a situation this offseason where I feel like I put myself in a hard, tough situation for myself and for owners and teams and my agents to be able to negotiate,” he explained. “I put all of us in a tough situation.”
Claiborne on Monday mixed in at right cornerback with the No. 2 offense during seven-on-seven work, but didn't participate in any full-team scrimmages. Reid said the club plans to ease Claiborne into the flow of practice to evaluate where he's at physically.
“He came out and worked, and I thought it was good work,” Reid said. “It's going to take him a couple of days to probably get his legs and that. We'll just see how he does.”
Claiborne finished last season on injured reserve with a sprained ankle, but that was mostly a procedural move. The injury wasn't considered serious, but the move allowed the Jets to promote a healthy practice squad player for the season finale against New England.
Still, Reid doesn't expect Claiborne to play this Saturday in the team's second preseason game at Pittsburgh.
“You've got to give him a fair shot here and get ready,” Reid said.
The looming four-game suspension certainly affects the plan for Claiborne over the remaining course of training camp and the preseason. Once Week 1 arrives, Claiborne cannot engage in any team activities including practices, workouts and meetings.
He's dealing with a length offseason layout, but at the same time wants to push himself to take advantage of the time he has before the suspension.
“Not playing football for this long and coming out, it's easy to deal with injuries,” Claiborne said. “I'm just working with the training staff, closely working with the coaches, doing what they allow me to do and try to push myself each and every day further.”
The Chiefs invested in Claiborne for the long haul, so they're OK taking it slowly for now if it ensures a healthy cornerback fresh for the second half and the postseason.
“We'll get him in, and we just don't want any setbacks,” Reid said. “You don't want any pulls, you want to give him a chance to get in, get it going and then we'll get him in and let him work a little bit.”
Claiborne said his goal for the season is simply to help the Chiefs defense get “the the next level.”
“Once I learn this defense and just come in and takeover, that's my mindset,” Claiborne said. “It's just come in and play. I don't feel like I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain in this situation, and I feel like I'm going to take full advantage of it.”
After all, the lure of the postseason is ultimately what brought Claiborne to Kansas City.
“I could tell from the coaching staff to the owner they really wanted me, and I can feel it,” he said. “I could feel the energy from them. LI know that they have a great team, and I know we're going to be playing in the playoffs. Our goal is to win that Super Bowl.”