After the first question from reporters Wednesday — how this year’s training camp under coach Andy Reid compares to his first two — left tackle Eric Fisher made sure he mentioned the team’s ultimate goal.
“It’s good,” Fisher said. “I came in here — I’m healthy, I’m strong and I’m confident. I’m just coming out here to work every day. We all got the same goal this year, and we’re working for a Super Bowl.”
This is not a coincidence. Fisher proceeded to mention the Super Bowl, unprompted, twice more over the next five minutes. After witnessing the Royals’ majestic run to the World Series last fall, Fisher wants the same for his football team.
“It was amazing being a part of that, being around town and going to some games,” Fisher said. “Kansas City is a great town, a great fanbase. It will be awesome to go to the Super Bowl this year. We’re all looking to do that.”
But make no mistake about it, for the Chiefs to actually achieve that goal, they will need quality play from Fisher.
The Chiefs have a number of intriguing weapons to fuel their offense, namely Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. But the offensive line was leaky in pass protection last year, and if quarterback Alex Smith is again under fire, the offense could have a difficult time taking the next step.
As the left tackle, of course, Fisher protects the quarterback’s blind side. And while he took some positive steps a year ago — for one, he stayed healthy, playing all 16 games — Fisher still has a way to go to live up to his lofty status as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
For instance, Fisher allowed 24 quarterback hurries a year ago, 11 fewer than he did as a rookie — which ranked 23rd out of 84 eligible tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. But he still allowed five quarterbacks hits, the fifth-most in the league, and was tied with eight other players for the sixth-most sacks allowed with seven.
The Chiefs have only had two full-contact practices in training camp, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Fisher has made progress.
“He’s actually doing pretty well,” Reid said. “He looks good. He had a good offseason of lifting, which I thought was very important. He didn’t have a surgery involved with it. He came back in great shape and it’s paid off for him out here for the two days of ‘live’ contact we’ve had.”
After an injury-plagued rookie season that saw him battle through multiple injuries, Fisher underwent shoulder surgery last offseason that kept him from building up his upper body.
That made him appreciate the the hard work he was able to do this offseason — which included boxing — even more.
“Seeing how I really couldn’t work out that much last offseason, I took this offseason and took full advantage,” Fisher said. “I came out here, I feel great. I feel healthy and strong.”
Reid confirmed the latter, and Fisher’s technique — which suffered because of the shoulder injury — improved some, too.
“I think he’s just more comfortable all the way around with it,” Reid said. “His pass protection, he’s strong with his hands. He’s keeping them tight. It sounds like that’s a pretty simple thing to say, but it takes a little bit of time to develop that.”
Fisher’s field awareness, particularly in pass protection, is another area that figures to improve in his third full season.
“As far as knowing exactly what we’re doing and knowing the offense in and out, I’ve made strides in the playbook,” Fisher said.
The presence of Ben Grubbs, a nine-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler, will help in this regard. Grubbs was acquired this offseason for a fifth-round pick, and figures to be a salve at a left guard position — manned by Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach — that surrendered 26 hurries and eight sacks, per Pro Football Focus.
“A guy like Ben, we call guys like him a salty vet,” Fisher said. “They’ve been in this game a long time. Playing next to somebody like that is really good for me. We’ve got a good thing going, we’re communicating every day on what we need to improve.”
Reid is optimistic about the future of the pairing.
“I would tell you he’s coming into that (third) year, so he’s seen quite a bit,” Reid said of Fisher. “It’s that communication right there and that trust in the guy next to you.
“That’s not to say he didn’t have it with McGlynn or Linkenbach. But he’s into his third year, and now he’s got an All-Pro player next to him. That’s a great thing.”
That’s just one of the reasons Fisher is excited about the season, however.
“The buzz around the locker room, man, we’re all feeling it, we’re all feeling confidence, good about the upcoming season,” Fisher said. “You just get the feeling, the gut feeling, that this is our year.
“We’re really looking forward to it. Can’t really explain it. Just something about it that feels right, and we’re working for it.”