A short conversation inside a dormitory hallway informed Tremon Smith of his move from cornerback to running back last month. But at the conclusion of the chat, Chiefs coach Andy Reid cautioned the move would be temporary. A training camp trial, so to speak.
The experiment has concluded.
On Sunday evening, as the Chiefs turned their attention to Week 1 in Jacksonville, Reid informed Smith he would be returning to the position in which he was drafted last year. To cornerback.
His time as a running back on the depth chart lasted one month. He’s with the defense once more, wearing a white practice jersey No. 39. For the final weeks of training camp, he wore red No. 20.
“Just still happy to be here,” Smith said. “I know we have a good thing going. Whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do, and I (won’t) complain about anything.”
While his shift to the offensive side of the football was greeted with plenty of attention — a throng of media waiting to talk to him in St. Joseph last month — the return to defense arrived in a much quieter form.
With a simple switch on the official roster.
From a numbers standpoint, this was coming. The Chiefs are thin at cornerback. Behind starters Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland and slot man Kendall Fuller, Rashad Fenton and Smith are the only two backups on the depth chart.
At running back, the Chiefs added LeSean McCoy to the mix, and all indications are they plan to use him often alongside starter Damien Williams. The position group is deep enough for the Chiefs to have traded Carlos Hyde — even before acquiring McCoy.
Where does that leave Smith? Well, he’ll be practicing with the defense and special teams. Perhaps, though, he could still factor into the offense, albeit sparingly.
“He’s familiar enough with both sides of the ball where he could do that, if needed,” Reid said.
But he’s playing a bit of catchup this week. As Smith learned the nuances of a new position, his former teammates in the defensive backfield spent training camp becoming acclimated to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
“I was with the defense through OTAs, so I’m very familiar with the plays,” Smith said. “It was just picking up where I left off. They added a few more plays. I caught up on them pretty fast, so it’s not too tough.”
Regardless of his position, his most noticeable impact — at least immediately — will remain on special teams. Smith is the team’s primary kick returner after averaging 26.8 yards per return on 33 attempts in 2018, his rookie season. More recently, he’s factoring more into the coverage units as a gunner on the punt team, a role he could embrace in Sunday’s opener with De’Anthony Thomas serving a one-game suspension.
“Obviously you want to play either on the offensive or defensive side (along) with being a kick returner,” Smith said. “I’m still striving to be in a position on that, but as of right now, I’m making a living on special teams.”