It’s not easy picking up patterns or trends in the Chiefs’ practices during organized team activities.
Things move quickly, as there’s constant yelling from coaches and movement from players, and the lack of pads makes it difficult to evaluate trench play.
But throughout it all, there was a fairly common sight in the middle of the Chiefs’ offensive line — No. 64 constantly clapping his hands, repeating words of encouragement, trying to get his guys to push through the simmering Kansas City heat.
“I’ve been doing that, and it’s something I’ve worked to improve on to bring some energy, keep guys going, keep guys up and keep us together,” Kush said. “The days get long and there’s a lot of hard work being done out there, so I just like to keep guys going.”
When asked for some examples of things he might say to get his guys going, Kelce grinned and laughed.
“I might say, ‘Let’s go, guys,’ or ‘(come on) Cash Money Kelc,” Kush said, referring to tight end Travis Kelce. “I might say, ‘What’s up Pretty Kelc, let’s go,’ or ‘dap up, J.C. (running back Jamaal Charles) or DAT (receiver De’Anthony Thomas).’ I’m just trying to get guys going.”
The man who plays right next to Kush, left guard Ben Grubbs, joined the team this offseason but has quickly become acquainted with Kush’s onfield demeanor.
“Kush is being Kush,” Grubbs said. “That’s him, and it’s very important to be yourself. He’s just doing what he does — always. He definitely brings that energy to the huddle, and we appreciate that.”
Kush’s head coach, Andy Reid, certainly does.
“That’s his personality — you want to let his personality show,” Reid said. “He brings energy every day; he’s done a nice job with it.”
This will come in handy, especially when the Chiefs open training camp on Aug. 1.
“When you get in those dog days of summer, and mentally and physically you’re about ready to become extinct, you just push yourself through,” Reid said. “Having a guy that helps generate a little bit (of energy) — whether you’re laughing at him or listening to him — it works either way. So he’s got that ability there to do that.”
That’s certainly not a bad trait to have, especially as Kush — a sixth-round pick in 2013 — tries to hold off 2015 second-round pick Mitch Morse for the starting center job that was vacated when last year’s starter, Rodney Hudson, was lured by a massive free-agent deal from Oakland.
Kush is off to a nice start, too. During a spring filled with plenty of experimentation on the offensive line, Kush remained a constant with the first team at center, and quarterback Alex Smith said early in OTAs that the transition to Kush was “seamless.”
However, holding off Morse — whose toughness and quick feet impressed general manager John Dorsey — isn’t a task that can necessarily be accomplished until the pads come on.
“I guess it doesn’t mean much now, but it’s good to be in there getting all the reps, getting all the work in and helping guys stay up and try to lead the way,” Kush said.
Reid also made it clear this week that the lack of physicality in OTAs makes it difficult to sort out the best options on the offensive line.
“That’s why you still need that training camp part of it,” Reid said. “Some guys look OK in shorts and you put pads on them and you don’t like (what you see) and vice versa. So you want to try to get as close to a game speed and tempo as you possibly can.”
Still, that doesn’t mean the offensive linemen didn’t get some quality work in over the past month or so.
“They can still work technique, fundamentals,” Reid said. “Hand placement. Foot placement. First and second steps are important as you’re an offensive lineman. We’re fortunate our guys know how to work in conditions like this with the rules they’re given and they can still improve themselves.”
And so far, it seems like the Chiefs are happy with what they’ve seen from Kush and Morse as they look for the next anchor of their offensive line.
“Both those guys are built ideally to play the position,” offensive line coach Andy Heck said. “The thing with Eric Kush, he’s been in our system now for a couple years. He knows our calls. He knows our system. He’s been drilling our techniques for a couple years. He’s right where he needs to be.
“Mitch is quickly picking things up, and we’re cross-training him at both center and guard. We love his quickness and his leverage. He’s a very explosive guy.”
The Chiefs concluded their final practice of minicamp on Thursday and won’t reconvene for over a month, so the battle between Kush and Morse is far from over.
But when asked recently if he was confident he’s ready to win, Kush’s infectious enthusiasm — the same he showed all spring — popped up again.
“Oh, absolutely,” Kush said. “Year three feels great. It felt great before, but year three, it’s the third time doing this thing. Everything just seems as smooth as butter to you. You get everything locked in, and I’m just ready to play some football and get out here, get some sun and have some fun.”