The two-minute drill is easily the most interesting part of any Chiefs offseason practice. The pace is fast, the players are into it, and more often than not, big plays are made — especially if the offense isn’t sharp.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes learned this the hard way on Wednesday, when the first-round rookie tried to throw the ball away near the sideline and could only watch as linebacker Reshard Cliett jumped the intended receiver’s route for an interception that ended the practice.
“(I learned that) if I’m going to throw the ball away, just throw it way out of bounds,” Mahomes explained. “You’ve got to learn from those mistakes. They happen, but you’ve got to eliminate them and not let them happen again.”
The Chiefs see big things in the strong-armed Texan’s future, as evidenced by the two first-round picks they surrendered to move up in this year’s draft and secure his services.
But from the moment of his selection, both coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have gone out of their way to reinforce the fact that Alex Smith is the starter.
Mahomes — who remains the club’s third-string quarterback through five voluntary practices — understands that, and has repeated that line.
But when asked how far he is from being “game ready,” he answered with the confidence you’d want your quarterback of the future to have.
“I don’t know if I’m that far away – it’s more about me continuing to work and keep getting better,” Mahomes said. “These veterans are guys that have been in the league, been around and have been very successful. In order to be like them, I’ve got to go as hard as they do and catch up to them.”
To get there, Mahomes must first master the playbook. That’s been his primary focus since his selection, and it goes beyond simply understanding and spitting out the verbiage in the huddle (which is something he never had to do in college).
On Wednesday, Mahomes — a noted collegiate gunslinger — said he is still working on playing within the structure of Reid’s offense, which asks the quarterback to understand and comprehend every built-in contingency for nearly every play.
“In college sometimes, you would just make it work,” Mahomes said. “Here, there’s an answer for everything. You just have to know those things. That’s really the biggest thing that I’ve learned here and it’s awesome.”
Mahomes has also been working on his footwork. Reid’s West Coast offense is predicated on timing, and a quarterback’s footwork and delivery is often tied to the routes. Mahomes still has to learn the intricacies of all that, but he’s been working on it regularly after practice.
“I want to be a little tighter and quicker so I can get the ball out faster,” said Mahomes, who has noticed that the passing windows are much smaller in the NFL than they were in college.
“You see Tom Brady, you see Alex Smith and you see all those guys in the pocket and how quick they are with their footwork and how they get the ball out fast. I have to get like that.”
But while Mahomes has a lot on his plate on the field, he remains grateful for the opportunity. Less than a week after his selection, he and a group of friends were robbed in Tyler, Texas, in what police say was a random incident.
“I’m just glad the police got the guy so I don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Mahomes said.
Now, he can focus again on becoming the best player he can be, a process that has just begun for the 21-year-old.
“For me, it’s always fun,” Mahomes said. “You’re playing football and living out your dream. You work hard and do those things but you have fun doing it at the same time.”