By the time the Chiefs’ seventh full-squad training camp practice ended Thursday, an undrafted rookie free agent (Daniel Sorensen) and a player who spent 2013 on the practice squad (Malcolm Bronson) were rotating in with the first team at safety.
The Chiefs can blame injuries for that. Sanders Commings, who was contending for a starting position next to Pro Bowler Eric Berry, broke a bone in his ankle Wednesday. And Berry left practice early on Thursday because of a sore ankle.
That left only Sorensen, Bronson, projected starter Husain Abdullah and veteran free agent Jerron McMillian as the remaining safeties in a secondary that also saw starting cornerback Marcus Cooper go down Thursday because of a hamstring injury.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, however, wasn’t about to panic about his thin secondary.
“That’s what happens as you go through camp,” Reid said. “Your legs get tired and you get those camp strains, those tight hamstrings. We’ll be fine. You push through it.”
But the Chiefs also added a little insurance, signing veteran safety Steve Gregory to a one-year deal. They released inside linebacker Ben Johnson to clear a roster spot for the move.
“He’s got a good relationship with (cornerback) Sean Smith. He knows (quarterback) Alex Smith pretty well,” said Gregory’s agent, David Canter. “He obviously loves coach (Andy) Reid and is pumped about being able to play next to a Pro Bowl-caliber guy like (safety) Eric Berry.”
Gregory, 31, has recorded 357 tackles in 111 career games over eight NFL seasons with the Chargers and Patriots. Last season, he made 79 tackles and zero interceptions in 14 games, including 11 starts, with the Patriots.
Gregory, who is listed at 5 feet 11 and 200 pounds, finished last season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 1.7 in 984 snaps.
Canter said Gregory had been set to sign with another team Thursday when the Chiefs called to express their interest. The fit — and the Chiefs’ need — was too good to pass up, Canter said.
The loss of Commings, a second-year safety who Reid said Thursday would have surgery, is a blow for a defense that needs more range from the free safety spot.
A fifth-round pick in 2013, Commings — a former cornerback in college at Georgia — was expected to contribute in the Chiefs’ nickel and dime defenses this season. But the majority of his rookie year was wiped out by injuries, and the Gregory signing signals Commings may be unable to play for a while.
“Normally when you break a bone, it takes a while,” Reid said.
Commings, who missed the first five practices of camp because of a foot strain, broke his ankle in his first practice back Wednesday while trying to tackle Jamaal Charles.
Reid, meanwhile, downplayed Berry’s injury.
“It’s not an Achilles’ (injury), a tear or anything like that,” Reid said.
The Chiefs have moved around Husain Abdullah, their other projected starter at safety. But with Berry and Commings gone Thursday, the Chiefs got a good look at all their backup safeties.
Sorensen, an undrafted rookie free agent from Brigham Young, got a substantial amount of playing time with the first team. But he knew better than to get ahead of himself.
“Tomorrow I might be running with the threes,” Sorensen said.
At the rate the Chiefs have been losing defensive backs this camp, competition can only be a good thing.
“You see everyone’s playing out here,” Reid said. “We give them as many reps as we can. Everybody’s going to play once we get to the first preseason game. It takes a little time. We evaluate them and play the best guys.”