Enveloped in an oversized team-issued down jacket and a toboggan, Chiefs cornerback Orlando Scandrick stood on the sideline in Seattle on Sunday night. He hovered near midfield for most of the night, not moving much as he took in the game from a much different vantage point than he was used to seeing it.
Though he was on the active roster and wearing his uniform under the coat, he knew odds were slim that he’d participate.
Instead, rookie Charvarius Ward would hold down Scandrick’s cornerback spot for the night, playing all but one defensive snap in the 38-31 loss to the Seahawks.
“Some guys become a distraction, and that’s not what he was,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Scandrick. “He tried, as much as he wanted to play, he still helped out with the young guys, which I appreciated.”
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It seemed like a curious decision to bench a veteran in favor of a rookie in Week 16 — especially considering the stakes: Sunday night primetime with a No. 1 seed and homefield advantage on the line. But Reid wanted to try some of his younger guys out, and together with coordinator Bob Sutton, he decided that one of those positions that could be upgraded was Scandrick’s. So he told the pair the week before the game that they were making the change.
By removing Scandrick, 31, from the lineup and inserting Ward, the Chiefs felt like they could reduce the number of penalties — Scandrick is third on the team with eight penalties this season — and give the position more speed.
“We felt like we had to do something,” Sutton said. “We only have so many places we could’ve changed. That you say, ‘OK, look.’ That was one of them.
“I think Charvarius has got great speed. He brings speed to the defense, and that’s helpful. He’s a young, young, young guy. That’s a big task to ask of him. That’s why I thought he did a good job from the competitive nature. That to me is what I thought really stood out.”
The benefit to the young players was obvious: Game reps in a high-intensity atmosphere would only prepare them for the bigger stages down the line. Having Scandrick nearby also gave the young players a confidence boost.
But could a move like the one Sutton and Reid made Sunday night benefit Scandrick? A 11-year pro who’s seen it all?
“When you’re on the field, you’re in like this,” Sutton said, narrowing his hands in front of his face. “And you don’t have this big picture. You don’t see all the things that are going on. I think you’re into the exact moment of the play.
“When you’re afar, you can kind of analyze and look back and say, ‘This is what happened in this series, this play or that play.’ Sometimes as a player out there, you’re out there playing that play. And then you’re playing the next play and the next play, and then your series is over.”
For Scandrick, who spent the bulk of his final four years in Dallas as a starter, he didn’t have many opportunities to get the wide view of the game.
“You just see things that are different, situational things,” Scandrick said. “I haven’t watched a whole lot in my career, so it’s different. We’re in Week 17. We’re making a playoff push. We got a great opportunity ahead of us.
“I’m a team player and whatever it takes to win, that’s what it’s going to be. I still continue to prepare myself in the event that I do get an opportunity, and I mean that pretty much is what it is.”
Scandrick wouldn’t speculate about his role going forward Thursday afternoon, and he wouldn’t analyze the performance of Ward and fellow rookie Tremon Smith, who took over Kendall Fuller’s vacated nickel back spot.
“I’m not here to talk about lineups and what I expect and what my opinion is,” Scandrick said. “I’m here to prepare myself week in and week out to be ready if my number is called.
“Also, I’m not here to assess talent. To assess other players. You know, I was just happy that they got an opportunity. Those guys got bright futures.”