KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)The new faces of the Kansas City Chiefs offense are getting to know each other in the warm Texas sun, rather than the cold Kansas City rain, after Andy Reid decided to make voluntary offseason workouts a virtual exercise this season.
In a departure from his previous three decades of offseason work, Reid said Monday that he’s encouraging his players to Zoom into voluntary meetings – rather than attend in person at the Chiefs practice facility – so that they can continue their workouts from anywhere in the country ahead of more formalized team activities next month.
”There’s a number of guys here lifting,” Reid said, ”but again, these are all voluntary camps, all three phases.”
That hasn’t stopped a number of players from congregating around Patrick Mahomes in Texas, where the star quarterback spends the offseason. Many of them are new faces that the Chiefs have added to the offense after trading three-time All-Pro Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins and losing wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle in free agency.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the biggest names that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has landed to help fill Hill’s void in the offense. The Chiefs also have signed Ronald Jones II to help at running back, and there are several other players that have been signed to compete for a spot on the roster next season.
The work toward that goal began this week in the virtual meeting room with Reid and his coaches, and on the Texas practice fields with Mahomes, who knows the foundation for a successful season begins long before kickoff in September.
”The biggest thing for the work we’ve been getting in Texas is to build those relationships,” Mahomes said by Zoom. ”That’s what has made us great the last few years, the bond of our team, the chemistry we have, so we can be who we are. I wanted to get everybody together so they can meet each other, get to know each other and build those friendships.”
There are always new faces, even for the most successful of franchises, but the near-total revamp that the Chiefs have had this offseason is rare for a club so stable that it has hosted the past four AFC championship games.
Hill was the biggest departure, shipped to the Dolphins for a slew of draft picks that could further remake the offense next week. It was a move that made eyebrows raise across the league both for the value that Hill has had for Kansas City and for the record contract that Miami gave him the moment he arrived in South Florida.
Smith-Schuster, who showed flashes of stardom in Pittsburgh, and Valdes-Scantling, who must be living right to go from Aaron Rodgers to Mahomes as his quarterback, are high-upside players that Veach believes can balance Hill’s production.
”Myself and Brett keep it wide open with Patrick. There’s a pretty good chance change will take place throughout your career. That’s all part of it,” Reid said off the offseason maneuvering. ”It’s important that they see that it’s part of this game, and change does take place, and I think you beat around the bush on it, I don’t think that’s good, either.”
The change hasn’t been solely on the offensive side of the ball, either.
Veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was so important in setting the defense the past three seasons, remains on the free-agent market. The Chiefs also released linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who often relayed the defensive plays.
The Chiefs signed Justin Reid, formerly of the Texans, to take over Mathieu’s spot in the secondary. The linebacker group is being turned over to second-year pro Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr., a pair of younger players with higher ceilings.
”In this day and age, unfortunately, you can’t just pay everybody,” Reid said. ”It’s hard thing to do to extend contracts. You’re going to lose a guy here and there. There’s how it works.”
The result is a team that is certain to look very little like the one that lost in the AFC title game to Cincinnati, and even less like the one that went to back-to-back Super Bowls and won the Chiefs’ first championship in five decades.
”I don’t need them here right now,” Reid said. ”We’ve played a lot of games the past four or five years, maybe more than anybody in the National Football League. I think some time away and bonding with new players is important. And when they get here, they’ll be revved up, and we’ll be here for quite some time. So these next two weeks they can work and get to know each other away from here and I think that’s important.”
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