Red Zone

Chiefs’ third-round pick KeiVarae Russell a ‘sponge’ early in training camp

Chiefs cornerback Keivarae Russell went airborne for a ball during during rookie minicamp in May.
Chiefs cornerback Keivarae Russell went airborne for a ball during during rookie minicamp in May.

KeiVarae Russell adores his 2012 Ford Mustang. The used car was the lone splurge after receiving a $813,128 signing bonus from the contract he signed in June.

“Don’t use that word cheap,” Russell said at Thursday’s training camp session. “I like that thing … it rolls good.”

That car is one of a few changes for Russell, the Chiefs’ third-round pick, since he signed his rookie contract.

He’s been smart with most of his money, but now he can afford to get his mom’s car fixed or to get a new haircut every week — he sports a fade with two short, sharp lines on the right side, just beyond his temple. He’s slated to make another $450,000 this year on top of his signing bonus.

With the focus on him and the rest of the rookies in the first few days of Chiefs training camp, Russell compared himself to a sponge, soaking in knowledge on how to play cornerback in the NFL.

He’s learning how to deal with 14-hour days and three-hour meetings at the Chiefs’ training camp facilities at Missouri Western. He’s adjusting to the NFL field, where the numbers are closer to the middle of the field than they were at Notre Dame, and how it changes routes. And he’s adapting to playing primarily nickel corner, rather than outside corner, while also trying to learn the safety positions too, just in case coaches need him there.

“Athletically, people see, I can play with the top guys,” Russell said. “But mentally I’m not there yet with the rest of the guys who have been in this league for a while. So I’ve got to get to that point.”

Learning every defensive back position has been piece of the goal he set for himself before the NFL Draft: get on the field and produce for an NFL team.

In the coming weeks, once the veterans arrive, Russell will find exactly where he fits among this team. For now, he’s trying to find a spot in a secondary that is relatively wide open behind Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines.

“It’s about being a student of the game and being a sponge,” Russell said. “I’ve never done this before. I’ve played football, but I’ve never been a professional playing it.”

Christian Hardy: 816-234-4208, @ByHardy