After two days of work, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was given the day off Wednesday from practicing with the rookies and selected veterans.
But when Smith returns to the practice field on Thursday afternoon for the official start of training camp, he knows what he wants to from his offense: to pick up where it left off last season.
Smith threw for a career-best 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first year with the Chiefs and was particularly effective down the stretch when he threw 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions during a five-game span from mid-November to mid-December. That included a perfect 158.3 passer rating in a five-touchdown performance at Oakland.
He finished the season by setting playoff-game franchise records with 46 attempts, 30 completions, 378 yards and four touchdowns in last season’s 45-44 first-round playoff loss at Indianapolis.
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“I felt at the end of last season we were doing some good things offensively,” Smith said shortly before his two days working with the youngsters. “We were really on a roll those last six weeks … moving the ball, scoring some points and protecting the football. We had a great off-season and want to get back into it.”
The Chiefs’ veterans will practice for the first time on Thursday and will begin hitting on Saturday.
“It’s tough in the off-season,” Smith said of the off-season organized-team activities and mini-camps. “You’re pretty one-dimensional because it’s hard to simulate the run game without pads. The run game gets a little more attention as we get the pads on … and the protections. … You kind of get back to real football, whereas the off-season is a little bit of seven on seven.”
Smith said he and backup quarterback Chase Daniel would benefit from working with the young receivers in camp.
“I like coming in early, it’s nice getting a few days of throwing before the vets come in,” Smith said. “It’s a great little warmup, and when the vets come in, you’re really locked in and ready to roll and make the most of those practices.”
The Chiefs are expected to have two new players on the field when they begin practice on Thursday afternoon.
Inside linebacker Josh Mauga, a five-year veteran who appeared in 29 games with the New York Jets during 2010-12; and offensive tackle Ryan Harris, a seven-year veteran who spent last year at Houston, have indicated they have signed with the Chiefs.
Mauga, who played for Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton with the Jets, spent the 2013 season on injured reserve because of a back injury.
Harris, a third-round pick by Denver in 2007, mas made 39 career starts for the Broncos and Texans. He appeared in 16 games with Houston last season, starting three. In 485 snaps, Harris received a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-7.1.
The Chiefs will have to make roster moves to clear space for Harris and Mauga because the club is at the preseason roster limit of 90 players.
Bray, Murray go head-to-head
With Smith and Daniel excused on Wednesday morning, young quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Aaron Murray had the offense to themselves for the final practice for rookies and selected players.
Bray, a second-year quarterback who did not step on the field in 2013, and Murray, the club’s fifth-round pick from Georgia, evenly divided the snaps.
It was pretty much a draw.
During two portions of whatever 11 on 11 the Chiefs could cobble among the 31 players on the field, Bray completed seven of eight passes. Murray was six of seven and took one coverage sack.
In his first round, Bray hit A.J. Jenkins on a crossing pattern; Weston Dressler on a swing pass in which Dressler, the Canadian Football League signee, escaped the coverage of outside linebacker Dee Ford; and hit a wide-open Kyle Jenkins, who beat Malcolm Bronson down the sidelines.
Murray made good by salvaging a high snap from Ben Gottschalk and tipping it to himself before hitting Frankie Hammond Jr. across the middle. Murray also connected with Deon Anthony on a sideline out against veteran Chris Owens.
The Chiefs then went to a session in the scoring zone. Bray hit A.J. Jenkins between two defenders in the corner of the end zone; he was high on a throw that Williams snagged over Brandon Jones; and hit Jarrell Jackson on a quick hitter defended by Vernon Kearney. After an incompletion, he threw a check down to running back Charcandrick West.
Murray was four for five in the scoring zone. He hit West leaking out of the backfield, Dressler in the seam, Darryl Sargent for a touchdown; and Albert Wilson for a touchdown in the middle of the end zone. His final pass sailed incomplete.
Rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines was held out Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.
Gaines, the Chiefs’ third-round pick from Rice, was on the sidelines riding the stationary bike, carrying some weights and working with the training staff along with another rookie cornerback, David Van Dyke, who is out with a hamstring.
Rookie linebacker DeRon Furr (back) also missed practice, and fullback James Baker missed his third day for personal reasons.
Owens gets head start
Veteran cornerback Chris Owens was the old man on the field during Wednesday’s final practice for rookies, free agents and selected veterans.
Owens, 27, was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Chiefs and missed some time in the off-season because of a hamstring injury, allowing him to practice in camp before the full team takes the field on Thursday.
“You say (I’m old) because of this beard,” Owens said with a laugh. “I should have cut it. This is my sixth year, but it’s football. I’ve been playing since I was 8, so I love it. I can come out early, and it’s an advantage for me.”
Owens, who spent 2009-12 at Atlanta and last season with Cleveland and Miami, steps into a murky situation at cornerback. The Chiefs released six-year starting right cornerback Brandon Flowers, and returnees Ron Parker and Marcus Cooper are unproven. Sean Smith, the other starter from 2013, lost his starting role, at least in offseason practice, after an arrest for DUI, and Gaines is nursing a hamstring injury.
Owens, 5-9 and 180 pounds, resembles Flowers in size and would seem to be a good fit for the nickel spot that Flowers occupied for much of last season.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Owens said. “I come in and do my job and leave the personnel stuff to the general manager and head coach. The thing I’ve learned in six years, is you’ve always got to prove yourself. You’ve got to come out here whether you’re a rookie, whether you’re a 10-year veteran, you’ve got to prove yourself on the field.”
The Star’s Terez A. Paylor contributed to this report.