Reggie Ragland’s return to practice key for Chiefs run-stuffing hopes in 2018

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Reggie Ragland returned to practice this week after starting camp on the sidelines with a swollen knee, and the Chiefs linebacker says he feels fresh back on the field for training camp.

“Like a newborn baby,” Ragland said. “I feel great, finally get back out there with my guys and participate in practice I feel real good, I'm happy to be back out there.”

Ragland started camp on the nonfootball injury list after arriving in St. Joseph with a swollen knee. He traveled to Mexico on vacation and worked out on a turf surface that aggravated his knee, the same knee in which he suffered a torn ACL two years ago.

“Me not being smart, I should have put a knee sleeve on,” Ragland said. “But then when I got out there in the elevation and it took my knew and just blew it straight up.”

Getting Ragland back on the field is critical as the team hopes to revamp a run defense that ranked 27th in the league last year. Ragland and free agent Anthony Hitchens need time on the field together to develop chemistry and learn one another's strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

“It's very important because it's going to be at times where things will be going so fast,” Ragland explained, “and I just got to know how he's feeling or I've got to know his position and know everything.”

It helps that Ragland and Hitchens have quickly developed a relationship off the field. Whether it's watching a Royals game or grabbing a bite to eat, the two have quickly developed a rapport off the field they hope translates into game days.

“We laugh, we go to the movies together, we're always going out, we're always talking and doing a lot of stuff,” Ragland said.

Ragland also sees in Hitchens characteristics that rekindles memories for him of former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.

“He reminds me of D.J. how smart he is everything,” Ragland said. “Before the plays we're both calling out everything, we're both talking to each other. That's very helpful to me and that's very helpful to him also.”

Ragland watched Thursday's preseason game on the sidelines with Hitchens. Ragland said Hitchens would see a certain look or formation and scream out the play that was coming.

“That's how D.J. was,” Ragland said. “D.J. would come out of nowhere just screaming it during practice or during the games and everything so that's what I see in him that's like D.J.”

Ragland stands convinced that together he and Hitchens will help the Chiefs stop the run this year.

“Don't worry, we're going to stop that run,” Ragland said with his voice deep and deliberate. “We ain't playing that (expletive) about the run. We're going to stop it this year.”

The last time Ragland took the field for the Chiefs, the defense surrendered a 21-3 lead in last year's playoff loss at home to Tennessee. The Titans rambled for 202 yards that day.

“I know you saw the playoff game, we didn't finish,” Ragland said. “And ever since then coach Reid's been all about finishing, the team's been all about finishing and I feel like that's what we're going to do this year.”

Ragland says defending is all about mindset – “Offense you can just nonchalantly do what you got to do. But on defense the majority of our stuff we have to want to do it.”

He believes the Chiefs have the players that want to stuff the run.

“If you don't want to do it, we don't want you out there,” he said. “All the guys that want to be out there, coach wants you out there, I want you out there, I want to be out there and I want to do it for coach because he doesn't have a Super Bowl as a head coach so I want to get him one.”

Ragland doesn't know yet when he will make his preseason debut. He says he has not medical restrictions on him, and he trusts the team's coaching and athletic training staffs to make the determination on when he plays. If that means playing Friday against the Atlanta Falcons, he says he's ready. He admits still feeling a little sore, but that's football.

“If you can't work through soreness you might as well not play,” Ragland said. “That's the name of the game working through it. I've been working through and just trying to get back into myself, get in shape.”