KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Linebacker Nate Orchard spent three seasons with Cleveland during some of the toughest years yet for the Browns, and when he received his released from the club at the end of training camp, little did he know he would end up at the top of the AFC standings just more than a month later.
“It's tough when you get cut by a team, but that's just the nature of the business,” Orchard said after practice Friday as the Chiefs prepare for their trip to Cleveland this weekend. “You always look back to see what you could have done better personally, and I think I did everything I could to try and make that roster. Didn't work out there, but to be here is a privilege and to be with these guys is a unique situation.”
Between three seasons with Cleveland and three games in Buffalo this season, Orchard played 37 NFL games. He played in 23 straight losing games until the Bills' 27-6 win against Minnesota in Week 3. Orchard's teams went 4-33 over the parts of four seasons in which he played; the Chiefs won four games in the month of October.
The 25-year-old Orchard couldn't be more excited to land in Kansas City.
“The guys are awesome, they've welcomed me with open arms,” Orchard said. “We've got a great position group, a great outside linebacker coach and a great head coach.”
The Chiefs signed Orchard on Oct. 10, one day after the club signed veteran free agent Frank Zombo and three days after Justin Houston suffered a hamstring injury expected to keep him out for several weeks. With Dee Ford and Tanoh Kpassagnon also nursing injuries, Orchard was active for the Oct. 14 contest at New England but did not play a snap.
Orchard brings with him familiarity with the Chiefs' 3-4 defensive scheme. Jim O'Neil served as defensive coordinator for the Browns in Orchard's rookie season in 2015. He previously served as assistant defensive backs coach for New York Jets coordinator Mike Pettine from 2009-12. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton served on the same staff with O'Neil during his time with the Jets.
When the Chiefs signed Orchard, head coach Andy Reid said that experience in Cleveland played a pivotal role.
“He is good enough to be worked in, plus he was familiar with us being in Cleveland for a year, with this system.”
The second-round draft pick from Utah turned in his best season as a rookie in the 3-4 system. He picked up three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble while tallying a career-high 36 combined tackles in 2015. Now he's back at outside linebacker after playing as a 4-3 defensive end last season in Cleveland.
“It's just a refresher, I'm starting to get the grasp of things again,” Orchard said.
The Chiefs may need Orchard to step into the breach on Sunday. Zombo suffered a hamstring injury last week against Denver and will not play Sunday. Houston remains questionable against the Browns. That leaves rookie Breeland Speaks, Kpassagnon and Orchard as the only healthy outside linebackers on the roster.
Reid feels Orchard can contribute if needed.
“Orchard we feel comfortable with,” Reid said after practice Friday.
Orchard returns to Cleveland during a week of turmoil for his old team. The Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley this week. He hasn‘t spoke to his former team yeya, preferring to give them space during a period of drama.
“I figured they need some time to kind of decompress and figure things out themselves,” Orchard said. “But I'll definitely be seeing them on the field before the game on Sunday.”
But Orchard says the game holds more meaning for him than just simply his first playing time with the Chiefs. He's heading back to his old stomping grounds, even if he will be walking to the visitor's locker room for the first time.
“It's bittersweet but I'm excited to go back there to see the fellas,” Orchard said. “I left there on good terms, but at the same time excited to be with this team here, Kansas City, to get on the road and just continuing to do what we're doing.”