Steven Nelson did not want to leave his new team after the Chiefs’ rookie minicamp in early May, but NCAA rules dictated he must.
So Nelson, a third-round pick this year, did the next best thing — he immediately went back to The Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy and Performance in Phoenix, where he trained before this year’s NFL Draft, so he wouldn’t lose his edge.
“A lot of NFL DBs go out there to train and just be in that environment,” Nelson said. “I could have been chilling, but I took it upon myself to go out there and prepare myself.”
Nelson, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound cornerback from Oregon State, says he worked out five days a week, all three weeks.
“(Just) working out, (doing defensive back) drills, film, studying the playbook, things like that,” Nelson said.
But after missing all 10 of the Chiefs’ voluntary practices over the past three weeks, Nelson was finally back in Kansas City on Tuesday for the start of the Chiefs’ mandatory three-day minicamp.
He wasn’t the only newcomer, either, as ex-Washington cornerback Marcus Peters — the team’s first-round pick — also had his first practice with the team in three weeks.
Both players were forced to leave the team in mid-May because the NFL prohibits rookies from practicing until their college’s academic calendar is complete. Final exams for Washington and Oregon State — which run on the quarter system — weren’t done until mid-June.
The Chiefs, obviously, would have preferred to have both players practicing the past month. But receiver De’Anthony Thomas missed the voluntary practices last season because of the same rule and went on to become Chiefs’ rookie of the year.
“I don’t know if you can really say it’s a setback — it’s just what it is,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “We had to do it with De’Anthony last year … the biggest thing is, you get that technique base (when you’re here) that you’d love to have.”
Secondary coach Emmitt Thomas agreed, adding both players would have benefited by being present.
“I think the daily routine of repeating every day and getting the new material right now and then coming out and executing it in full flow (would help),” Thomas said.
Thomas, however, added that both players “learn well,” and received regular updates from assistant secondary coach Al Harris and coaching assistant Dino Vasso during their absence.
Nelson and Peters said they felt well-prepared when they left the team.
“When I was here, I got everything I needed,” Nelson said.
“I kept in touch (with them) but they were dealing with OTAs and stuff, so it wasn’t a lot,” Peters said. “I took all the information I had when I was here and kept studying.”
The Chiefs quickly inserted both players into the mix Tuesday. Peters, 6 feet and 197 pounds, opened with the starting nickel unit on the outside with Sean Smith, while Phillip Gaines shifted inside. Nelson worked both inside and outside with the second unit.
Both players even produced a notable play Tuesday, as Nelson hauled in an interception while Peters jumped a short route and almost picked it off.
“I think it fits (my skills) very well,” Nelson said of the Chiefs’ defensive scheme. “I feel like I can go out there and make plays in this defense. That’s what I like about it.”
Nelson also likes what Peters brings to the table.
“They paired us up as roommates since we’ve been out here, so we’ve got a chance to know each other pretty well,” Nelson said. “Great guy. He’s full of character, takes football serious. That’s what I got from him.”
Peters said he spent the previous three weeks in Oakland, working out at his old high school and spending time with his family, which includes his young son, who was born last fall.
“(I was) at home working out, enjoying some time with my family, just waiting to get back here,” Peters said. “Every day (I was) doing position-specific drills, making sure I’m in shape … (doing) stuff I was doing here in individual (drills).”
Like Nelson, Peters seemed content to let his body of work after a three-week break speak for itself.
“No pressure at all — (just) come in and compete the best I can,” Peters said. “I can take these three days as learning, be around the vets, get some more information about the playbook and once training camp comes, it’s on.”