Chiefs tackling more at camp, a risk that has advantages

07/30/2013 3:31 PM

07/30/2013 3:31 PM

If you’ve ever been to a Chiefs practice, you know that each quarterback wears a bright yellow jersey for a very specific reason. It serves as a vivid reminder for the other players that they are not to be touched, under any circumstance.

“Everybody knows,’’ linebacker Justin Houston said, “to stay away from the quarterback.’’

But there was Alex Smith hitting the deck during one of the first plays during team drills Tuesday. Smith got right back to his feet and later indicated the contact that knocked him down was more coincidental than intentional.

Still, the Chiefs are doing a lot of hitting, which is not that unusual at training camp. They’re also doing a lot of tackling, which is out of the norm. And they might pay for it soon with a significant injury, even if it’s from accidental contact as happened with Smith.

“You play the game,’’ coach Andy Reid said in defending the contact. “You’ve got to be a good tackling team. Normally the good tackling teams end up playing (well early) in the year.’’

Reid has a point. The Chiefs have done very little hitting at training camp the past several seasons and it’s probably no coincidence that in all seasons except one they’ve been one of the slowest starting teams in the NFL.

But Reid and the Chiefs have to accept the risks, too. Important players like Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Dexter McCluster have already taken their knocks. Like Smith, they’ve been able to get up but even Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt recently acknowledged he’s had some anxious moments seeing all the contact in practice.

You have to wonder, particularly in the case of smaller players like Charles and McCluster, what kind of toll this might take on them. If a back or receiver has only so many hits he can take, isn’t it better to save them for a real game?

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