Chiefs coach Andy Reid stepped to the podium Wednesday in front of a gaggle of reporters, overwhelmingly from national sites or other markets.
Given the Chiefs’ activity the past month — namely, the trades of quarterback Alex Smith and cornerback Marcus Peters, which won’t be finalized until the start of the new league year March 14 — there was little doubt what the questions would be about.
But Reid, as he is wont to do when faced with a potentially uncomfortable subject, cut those questions off at the knees during his opening statement. He wasn’t interested in risking a possible fine from the NFL by answering questions about the Peters trade directly.
“I can’t comment on that (stuff),” Reid said before taking questions at the NFL scouting combine. “I’m not going to be able to answer questions on that until the 14th.”
But there was one thing that frustrated Reid enough to comment. Namely, that team chairman Clark Hunt — who did make it clear to The Star that he disagreed with Peters’ pregame protests last season — ordered he and general manager Brett Veach to deal Peters this offseason for that reason, regardless of the return.
“There are things out there, things being said, that I strongly believe against, one of which, I think, is important that you know,” Reid said. “Our owner gives Brett Veach and I every opportunity to do what we want to do with the roster and any other situation.
“He does not interfere with that. Obviously, we keep him abreast, but there is not pressure coming from our owner. That’s not how he operates — at all.
“And so those things that are being said out there, as I know most of you have heard, are way, way, way out of line.”
Reid said this forcefully and remained defiant in an interview with The Star.
“Yeah, well, number one, because it’s not (true),” Reid said with a chuckle. “That’s just not how he rolls. There’s nobody that’s more diverse than him. I mean, he is 110 percent behind all of that. It started with his dad and he’s just taken that and gone with it. So that never would come up.”
So there’s never been a situation in which Reid has been told by Hunt to make a football move?
“No,” Reid said. “That’s not how he rolls. At all. Now, does he want to know what’s going on? Yeah, he’s the owner of the team. But that’s just not how he rolls.”
To be fair, the Chiefs’ ordinary return in the trade — a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick to the Rams for a 2018 sixth-rounder and Peters, a still-young, two-time All-Pro who also happens to play one of the league’s most coveted positions — only intensified theories surrounding the reasons why the Chiefs felt so intent on trading Peters. His protests during the anthem stopped in November after he met with Hunt and reached an agreement that he would spend the anthem in the tunnel and off the field.
Peters remained the Chiefs’ best corner by far in 2017 but missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his three-season career. His sometimes-explosive temperament boiled over when he cursed at a fan during a home game against Washington and screamed at defensive coordinator Bob Sutton during a game against Houston. Peters was suspended one game in December by Reid for tossing a penalty flag into the stands, walking off the field against the Jets and arguing with an assistant coach on the bus after the game.
So when the team was faced with the likely possibility of Peters holding out this offseason unless they made him the game’s highest-paid cornerback, the Chiefs decided to move on from a player whose overall temperament has proven to burn as hot as his undeniable passion for winning.
“Yeah, well we try to develop good culture on the team — that’s what’s important and that’s what we try to create in our locker room,” Reid said, when asked how confident he was that the Chiefs tried to develop a supportive environment around Peters, whose coachability was a question coming out of college. “We don’t single one person out (and worry about that).”
The Chiefs are obviously hopeful that the trades of Smith and Peters — who endeared himself to some teammates because of his genuine nature and was starting to hold more sway in the locker room, especially with younger players at his position — will create an environment that will not only allow second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes to thrive, but also establish his voice as the franchise’s loudest, and most important.
“It’s important — you have to carry yourself a certain way, and the players have to know that you’ve got confidence,” Reid said of Mahomes. “It’s a little different position in that way.”
Not that Reid is concerned about Mahomes’ ability to guide a team that's younger than the 2017 version.
“If he’s the guy, I mean, I don’t think that would be the issue,” Reid said, again being mindful of the fact the deals aren’t finalized yet.
A big reason for that, Reid said, is because of the guidance Mahomes received from his father, also named Pat, and his godfather, LaTroy Hawkins, both of whom were long-time professional baseball players.
“You could be a 10-year vet — he doesn’t care,”’ Reid said. “Go back to that baseball locker room he grew up in. That’s helped him. He gets after everybody.”
Reid's 53-27 record in Kansas City is certainly blemished by the Chiefs' 1-4 playoff record during his tenure. But he remains bullish on his club’s future, largely because of the presence of Mahomes and the star skill trio of tight end Travis Kelce, running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Tyreek Hill. And then there's the tenacity of new general manager Brett Veach, who made some impressive additions last season in linebacker Reggie Ragland and kicker Harrison Butker and is now charged with molding the defense into a faster, younger unit on the fly.
“Well, I like the pieces we have, first of all,” Reid explained, “and we’re not done. We’re not done. It’s gonna be a little different flavor, and I’m excited about that.”