It was Chiefs rookie free safety Daniel Sorensen’s welcome-to-the-NFL moment.
Thrust into the starting lineup in place of injured Eric Berry in the preseason opener Thursday night, Sorensen was tested early when Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton arched a deep pass down the middle for three-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green.
Green had a step on cornerback Ron Parker and hauled in the pass for a 53-yard reception before Sorensen, late in providing deep help, came over and made the tackle.
“I learned a lot from that play,” said Sorensen, an undrafted rookie from BYU. “It was definitely a play that was like, ‘This is the real deal, this is the NFL,’ and the margin for error is very slim. Your coverage has almost got to be perfect. I’m going to take what I learned from that play and that game and look to be better.
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“I could have had better anticipation and understanding of not only the route, but the coverage. You never want to make the same mistake twice.”
Sorensen may get another opportunity to start in Sunday’s preseason game at Carolina. Berry left Tuesday’s practice due to inflammation in his injured heel, and his status for the rest of the week is uncertain.
Sorensen appeared in 22 plays on defense and 11 on special teams against Cincinnati, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Sorensen would benefit from both the good and bad in that experience.
“He actually played pretty good against Cincinnati,” Reid said. “You get an idea of the speed of the game, right? Once you get into game time … each one of these preseason games gets a little faster and faster, and the regular season is faster than that. It was good for him to get in there and get that experience. We need to see more.”
Sorensen, who had eight interceptions in a college career that was interrupted in 2009-10 while he served a Mormon church mission in Costa Rica, has shown a knack for being around the ball during the Chiefs’ offseason workouts and in training camp.
“A lot comes down to route recognition and understanding the play to concentration and ball skills,” said Sorensen, who is a 24-year-old rookie. “I’ve got a lot of room to improve. The NFL does one thing really well: It exposes you to your weaknesses, and there are lot of things I’ve learned in camp I have to work on.”
Going against the likes of Chiefs wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery and tight ends Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce while replacing Berry at practice is steepening Sorensen’s learning curve.
“The level of competition is the same,” Sorensen said. “You’re playing against NFL talent. Our offense is just as good as any offense out there. The players we get to face every day and competition we get to see is similar to what you would see in the games. It’s a good way to get prepared.”
Sorensen, a 6-foot-2, 208 pounder, comes from a football family. Four of his brothers played college football, including Brad, who was a seventh-round choice of the San Diego Chargers in 2013 and is a backup to Philip Rivers.
That sibling rivalry could carry over to the AFC West rivalry if both Sorensen brothers make their teams.
“There won’t be a whole lot of talking to him the weeks prior to the games,” Daniel Sorensen said.