Chiefs' second-round pick Breeland Speaks says it's special that draft class is largely defense.
It’s not quite to the level made famous by Vince Lombardi in his speech to his team about fundamentals — “Gentlemen, this is a football” — but the Chiefs' rookie mini-camp takes it slow.
“We’d like for them to get out of the huddle and run the play that’s called,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’re asking them to learn a new language in a day, so you have a little patience, more than you’d have with a normal crew.”
The three-day camp began Saturday with 68 rookies. Six were produced from the team’s draft last weekend, 14 are undrafted free agents, 43 are players invited to try out, and five others were previously part of the organization but haven’t played and thus are considered rookies.
The draft picks are the stars and receive plenty of attention, but the Chiefs have found players among the undrafted, too.
In 2014, an undersized wide receiver from a small school — Georgia State’s Albert Wilson — made enough of an impression to stick around. In four seasons in Kansas City, Wilson caught 124 passes and scored eight touchdowns. He signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Dolphins after last season.
“There are guys who have come in and you weren’t sure exactly what you had, but they come out and keep getting better and better,” Reid said.
Others who have come from the rookie free agent list: safety Daniel Sorenson, tight end Demetrius Harris and running back Charcandrick West.
Some of the notables in that category this year are wide receiver Byron Pringle from Kansas State, LSU running back Darrel Williams and Marshall quarterback Chase Litton.
Pringle was a two-time All-Big 12 returning specialist who led the nation in yards per reception last year at 25.2. Williams rushed for 820 yards and nine touchdowns. Litton was considered by some to be the top undrafted quarterback after passing for 3,115 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. The Chiefs have three quarterbacks on the roster — starter Patrick Mahomes and veteran newcomers Chad Henne and Matt McGloin — and usually take four to training camp each July.
Breeland Speaks, the first player selected by the Chiefs in the NFL Draft, got a jump on the defense by getting a playbook before arriving.
“My first reaction I had was, I could do this,” said Speaks, an outside linebacker from Mississippi taken in the second round. “I’m feeling pretty good about things so far.”
Speaks is rooming with a fellow draft pick, linebacker Dorian O’Daniel from Clemson. Speaks knew other draft picks Derrick Nnadi and Armani Watts from workouts or the NFL Combine. With defensive players taken by the Chiefs with their first five picks, Speaks envisions a closeness with this class.
“We’re building that bond, right here, right now,” Speaks said.
For most of the rookies, however, these three days will be their only brush with the NFL. Reid said they’ll leave knowing they’ve had the full practice experience.
“We don’t favor any position — whether you’re drafted or nondrafted, we’re going to coach the dog out of you while you’re here,” Reid said.
Players also will leave with something beyond coaching — evaluation.
“We tape all the practices,” Reid said. “They’ll be watched every play, evaluated and graded every play, every guy will be.”