Red Zone

The Chiefs and NFL by beat writers Randy Covitz and Terez Paylor

Rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas gets up to speed quickly at Chiefs camp

07/30/2014 2:00 AM

07/30/2014 7:00 AM

Rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas struggled from a fitness standpoint early during offseason training, so it was fair to wonder how he would hold up once the pads came on during training camp on the Missouri Western campus.

The good news for the Chiefs is Thomas, a fourth-round pick in May, appears to be every bit as fast and shifty in three practices wearing full football gear.

“I’ve been playing in pads all my life, so I pretty much adapted to it pretty fast,” Thomas said.

Obviously, with Jamaal Charles’ presence in the backfield, Thomas won’t be asked to be a workhorse, but he’s expected to be a big-play threat in space.

Thomas also should bolster an already strong return game, which generated four touchdowns last season on punt and kickoff returns.

“His burst, his ability to make the first person miss, he’s got that,” Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Thomas. “Same thing Devin Hester had. The thing we need to work on with him right now is his catching and his ball reads. We’ll see him in practice, occasionally, have to run late to make a catch. It’s just a matter of him seeing the ball, where it’s going to be. Have the ball chase him and not him chase the ball.”

Thomas has been working as the No. 1 punt returner and also is in the mix to return kickoffs, though Toub said running back Knile Davis remains atop the kick-returner depth chart.

“There might be a situation we might have Knile and (Thomas) in the game at the same time and have a special return designed specifically for De’Anthony,” Toub said. “He can do a lot of different things that Knile can’t. Knile’s more power, speed, straight ahead — kind of fits our scheme mainly, but you can do a lot of other things with De’Anthony.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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