Among the many areas Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher targeted for improvement entering the 2014 season was his weight.
Fisher played between 295 and 300 pounds during a trying, injury-riddled rookie season in which he struggled with his technique at a new position and was sometimes overpowered, all while adjusting to the speed difference between the Mid-American Conference and the NFL.
But shortly after he participated in his first camp practice Tuesday — a full two days before his fellow veterans are mandated to practice — the 6-foot-8 Fisher said he now weighs 20 pounds more than he did last season.
“I’m weighing about 315,” Fisher said. “I’m happy with that weight. I think they’re happy with that weight.”
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They, of course, are the Chiefs, who selected the former Central Michigan standout No. 1 overall in the 2013 draft then watched him allow seven sacks and 35 quarterback hurries. He ranked 70th among 76 offensive tackles who logged at least 25 percent of their teams’ snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Not only that, but Fisher battled through at least five injuries (to his knee, shoulder, groin, back and a concussion), underwent shoulder surgery and had a sports hernia repaired in the offseason.
It was by any measure a bad season, though he showed improvement in the second half. But Fisher prefers to think of it as an learning experience, albeit a very painful one.
“Oh, I think I saw a whole lot,” Fisher said. “Rookie year is going to be a blessing to me because I learned everything you could last year.”
The injuries, however, did not help him in his quest to get stronger. Because of the shoulder surgery, he said he could not begin lifting weights with his upper body until after the Chiefs’ offseason workouts began in late April.
At the time, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Fisher had managed to gain five pounds, primarily through lower-body work. But Fisher maintains he’s satisfied with the gains he’s been able to make in his upper body as well.
“I never really lost strength,” Fisher said of his upper body. “I’ve been in there working and when you can’t bench, there’s other things you can do and that’s what I was doing.”
Still, while the extra weight might help him anchor against defenders, it won’t help his technique, which was inconsistent at best in 2013.
Moving a player who struggled at right tackle last season to the offensive line’s most important position is a bit of a gamble, but the Chiefs are betting that Fisher’s fundamentals will be more consistent at his natural position of left tackle, where his footwork and athleticism impressed the Chiefs’ front office during the draft process.
“I’m glad to be back in my home position,” Fisher said. “It’s like riding a bike. I felt good out there today. It’s a lot more natural for me. I’m really excited about it.”
Fisher and the other three offensive linemen in attendance — center Ben Gottschalk and guards Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif — didn’t get a chance to do or show much on Tuesday. The real test for Fisher will come Saturday, when the Chiefs are expected to don pads for the first time.
It is then that Fisher will see how much better he’s gotten since last season, and how much the extra weight and move to the left side will help his play. But for now, Fisher insists he feels great.
“I think I could honestly carry more weight,” Fisher said. “Obviously, it’s a little bit of an adjustment — I probably put on about 20 pounds (since last season). But I felt good out there today.”