There’s a flip side to everything in football. So while the Chiefs’ offseason retooling of their interior offensive line might make quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid sleep better at night, it’s not a stretch to think the additions could unnerve some linemen.
But if you ask guard Jeff Allen, that’s not the case at all.
In fact, Allen — a two-year starter who missed practically all of last season because of an elbow injury — says he welcomes the addition of Ben Grubbs, who was acquired for a fifth-round pick this year and plays Allen’s position of left guard.
“Part of the business, man,” said Allen, one of 12 holdovers from the Scott Pioli era. “Just excited to get another big body in here … competition never made anybody worse.”
And Allen, who is listed at 6 feet 4 and 307 pounds, is ready to chip in wherever necessary entering his contract season.
“I’m a versatile guy, I can do anything,” Allen said. “Coach Reid’s motto is ‘best five,’ so my goal is to be one of those best five, whether it be right tackle, right guard, left guard, wherever it may be, doesn’t matter.”
Reid told The Star at the NFL’s annual meetings in March that Allen will be given an opportunity to compete for the starting position at right tackle with Donald Stephenson, another fourth-year pro and holdover from the Pioli era.
Allen, who slid over from left guard to right tackle to start the Chiefs’ season last year because of Stephenson’s four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, said he’s been working on getting his footwork down this offseason.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things this offseason, primarily that kick slide, getting back comfortable at tackle because I haven’t done it in a while,” Allen said. “I played one game last year there, but it had been a while before that since I had been out there, so I worked a little more at tackle this offseason.”
Allen said he’s also been working on his snapping this offseason. The Chiefs’ starter at center last year, Rodney Hudson, departed to Oakland in free agency, leaving 2013 sixth-round pick Eric Kush and 2015 second-round pick Mitch Morse at the position.
That said, if Allen does get some work at center, he could be well-positioned to be a super-utility sort if he doesn’t beat out Stephenson at right tackle. That’s a big task, and few can do it, but Allen doesn’t mind having his plate full.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge — I’ve been doing this my entire career,” Allen said. “It’s something that I’m accustomed to, so it’s not like it’s a big change for me. I’m used to being able to play one spot and switch to a different spot. A whole part of my game is versatility. The more you can do, the better. If I can’t play left guard, hey, try to put me somewhere else.”
The biggest key to Allen having the kind of season he wants is his recovery from the elbow injury that ended his season a year ago. He says he’s been training hard for six weeks, and is now bench pressing more after spending the offseason working with head strength coach Barry Rubin.
“No restrictions, I’m 100 percent,” Allen said. “I feel as good as I’ve felt in my entire career. I’m stronger, faster, a little bit more lean. So it will be pretty good for me.”
Reid also had positive things to say about Allen during the outset of the Chiefs’ offseason training program in mid-April.
“Jeff is back and doing everything,” Reid said. “Looks good, very good.”
Allen, who has started 28 games in his career — including 14 during Reid’s first season with the Chiefs in 2013, when they went 11-5 and made the playoffs — is hopeful he can continue to catch Reid’s eye, even with a two-time Pro Bowler in Grubbs now in the mix at his old position.
“Coach Reid knows what I can do,” Allen said. “He says the best five (will) play, and I believe him. So I’m going to go out and compete and give myself a chance.”