Tight end Tony Moeaki is a four-year veteran and one of the oldest players competing in this early portion of Chiefs training camp.
It’s most appropriate that he’s participating because, like the rookies and young players he’s practicing with, Moeaki has something to show Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and the rest of the Chiefs coaches.
Moeaki needs not only to prove he’s healthy and can stay that way, but that he can get back to being the productive player he was as a rookie in 2010.
The first three days of training camp are for quarterbacks, rookies and selected veterans. Moeaki was selected because he sat out all of the offseason practices after having arthroscopic knee surgery.
All veterans report to camp at Missouri Western State University on Thursday. Full-squad practice begins on Friday.
Camp is the first chance for the new Chiefs coaches to watch Moeaki practice.
“I knew when I came to Kansas City Tony was an athletic tight end, good route runner, tough kid and that he had made a lot of plays for the Chiefs,’’ said Pederson, the offensive coordinator. “I know he had the setback with the knee and all that, but it’s excellent to have him out there in this camp and see him running around full speed.’’
The trouble is that Moeaki made most of those plays when he was a rookie. Since then, he missed all of the 2011 season with torn knee ligaments and caught just 33 passes and scored one touchdown in a disappointing 2012 season.
Moeaki had the knee surgery after the season, and the Chiefs were in no mood to wait for him to return to health. So they signed one tight end, veteran Anthony Fasano, as a free agent and drafted another, Travis Kelce, in the third round.
The Chiefs have plans for both; Fasano as a traditional tight end and Kelce as someone who can line up in a variety of spots.
“We needed to get some guys in here to help Tony and take the pressure off of Tony,’’ Pederson said. “He can come in and be your (starting) tight end. He can definitely be your No. 2. A guy like Fasano is a bigger guy, more of a line of scrimmage guy. But can Tony do it? There’s no question in our minds that he can.
“He gives you that ability to stretch the field from the tight end position. He creates the matchups you want against linebackers and safeties.’’
But if Fasano and Kelce play a lot, where does that leave Moeaki? The Chiefs could conceivably find enough work to keep all three players busy, but if they only use two, they seem committed to Fasano and Kelce.
That would make Moeaki’s hold on a roster spot tenuous, at best.
“Every year, everyone is fighting for a spot,’’ Moeaki said. “I’m not (worrying about) expectations. I’m just coming out here and just trying to do the best I can.’’
Moeaki has the reputation of being brittle, going back to his time in college at Iowa. Since joining the Chiefs, he did miss all of 2011 with the knee injury, but has missed just two other games in two seasons.
Moeaki said the offseason surgery this year was to clean up the injured knee and not the result of a fresh injury.
“It was nothing I injured,’’ he said. “It was just something I had to take care of after the season. That’s all it was. Nothing happened. I’m feeling good. I just have to get the rust off, and I just have to get my feet under myself and I should be on my way.
“I’m feeling a lot better than a year ago today. I’m glad we took care of it.”
Though he’s been working the last two days, Moeaki is still well behind Fasano and Kelce, who were available for all of the offseason, in practice time. But Moeaki attended every spring practice and was a participant in all the meetings, so Pederson said he doesn’t think Moeaki has much, if any, catching up to do.
“He’s on track,’’ Pederson said. “He’s a sharp guy. We quizzed him during the offseason and he stayed sharp with everything. We run this no-huddle system now, and he’s really picked up on it. He’s doing a nice job.
“I don’t think he’ll be behind when we start up on Friday, and the more reps he gets, the better he’s going to be.’’