Making his way to the sideline Sept. 28 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines was in denial. He’d torn the ACL in his left knee, but didn’t want to believe it.
“That’s the first time I’ve really gone through an injury of that magnitude,” Gaines said.
The Chiefs’ training staff kept asking if Gaines, who started the first three games of the season, had heard a pop in his knee.
“Maybe something inside of me didn’t want to hear it,” he said. “But as the day went on, I sat back and said, ‘Yeah, I heard it pop.’ ”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It was an undeniable setback for Gaines, a third-round pick in 2014 out of Rice, but it’s also made him even more eager to contribute this season.
Gaines is in the mix with second-year cornerback Steve Nelson for a bump in playing time opposite NFL defensive rookie of the year Marcus Peters after starting cornerback Sean Smith signed with the Oakland Raiders in the offseason.
“Sean wanted to be here, but things didn’t work out that way,” Gaines said. “A lot of people, outside looking in, think Sean went to the Raiders and is a bad guy, but he helped me, Marcus and Steve from day one. That’s hard for a vet corner with three corners being drafted right behind him … but he was a good guy, good friend.”
Gaines’ left knee is healing well. He said he’s running full speed and “cutting pretty good,” but he’s still working his way back into playing shape. He said he doesn’t feel additional pressure trying to replace Smith, and will accept any role.
“If they put you out on the field, you try to make plays,” Gaines said. “There’s always pressure to perform, but that’s what makes players the players that they are. … I just want to be on the field.”
Fisher set for next step
Left tackle Eric Fisher came into his own on the field last season, and he displayed a newfound comfort Monday as the Chiefs’ offseason program got underway.
“What’s going on? I missed you guys,” Fisher said, laying it on thick as he stepped to the podium to meet with reporters.
Fisher’s progress last season is no joke. Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, locked down a starting spot after struggling for two seasons.
“As a tackle, obviously I want to cross into that Pro Bowl-caliber area,” Fisher said.
The biggest gains he’s made have been in terms of confidence and experience.
“Being the No. 1 pick, it’s quite a bit to live up to and it got to me a little bit my rookie year, but I think I’m on the right track now,” Fisher said. “ … I see myself on a steady incline and I’m looking to pick up where I left off and continue to grow and stay on a steady rise throughout my career.”
Fisher said he took a few weeks off after losing to the Patriots in the divisional round, then returned to training back home in Michigan.
“I feel great right now,” he said. “I feel real strong and I don’t feel like anything’s holding me back, so I’m looking forward to the next 10 months.”
Healthy Colquitt ready to chase ring
Punter Dustin Colquitt also is recovering from knee surgery, but he said he’s feeling great and has resumed kicking and running.
“I’m ready to roll,” Colquitt said. “I’ve been working out for about two months now, so I’m glad everybody’s back. The building gets kind of empty during the offseason.”
Colquitt, who had his right knee scoped in January, said he was happy for his younger brother, Britton Colquitt, who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last season with the Super Bowl champion Broncos.
“He punted really good in that game and, if not for Von Miller, he could have been the MVP,” Colquitt joked.
He also admitted to a twinge of jealousy.
“I’m the only male in my family that doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring, but it’s awesome and I’m happy for (Britton),” said Colquitt, whose father, Craig, won Super Bowls as the Steelers’ punter in 1978-79. “It’s something that I’m going to use during the course of this offseason for motivation.”