Vahe Gregorian

Reality of Tyreek Hill’s return to Chiefs is to hope for best-case scenarios for all

Mahomes excited to work with Tyreek Hill and ‘build the team we want to build’

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes calls Tyreek Hill a good friend and is looking forward to continue to build chemistry, starting at training camp.
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Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes calls Tyreek Hill a good friend and is looking forward to continue to build chemistry, starting at training camp.

The last time the Chiefs played, you’ll remember, they had a grasp on their first Super Bowl berth since 1970 before it slipped through their grip with a pivotal offsides call and an overtime cave-in against New England in the AFC Championship Game.

The business of harnessing that experience from haunting memory to a motivational springboard began in earnest on Tuesday, when rookies and quarterbacks reported to training camp at Missouri Western, the start of a foundational process that coach Andy Reid summed up as ultimately creating “a personality you can present as a football team.”

Toward that end, before Reid spoke to hopes of taking that monumental next step — or what an encore might look like from reigning NFL most valuable player Patrick Mahomes in his second season as a starter … or how this all hinges on the radical makeover of a woeful defense … and the looming holdout of star Chris Jones — he zoomed in on the most consuming storyline of the offseason and a pivotal one in many ways for these Chiefs.

“Let’s talk about Tyreek (Hill),” Reid said in his opening statement, calling it a “hot topic.” He noted statements recently made by the NFL, the Chiefs, law enforcement and Hill himself before concluding, “We have the trust in Tyreek, and we’re going to go forward in a positive way.”

That rather well encapsulates where the Chiefs are with Hill just days after the NFL announced that “based on the evidence presently available, (it) cannot conclude” that he violated its personal conduct policy after a four-month league investigation opened in the wake of a child-abuse probe involving Hill and former fiancée Crystal Espinal.

They are going to think once again in terms of “trust” with Hill, the dominant word used by Chiefs’ brass when they selected him in the 2016 draft months after he’d pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation of the then-pregnant Espinal.

And that will be their baseline rationale for moving forward with Hill, arguably the most dynamic player on the team after Mahomes, and a presence who greatly enhances their Super Bowl prospects.

You can like this attitude and approach or not, of course.

You could feel it signifies a disturbing ends-justify-the-means mindset, or see it as absolutely appropriate for someone you believe was vindicated through a process that didn’t find him culpable (even if it hardly pronounced him exonerated.)

Or you could see it someplace in-between, like I do:

Unsettled by the notion that Johnson County district attorney Steve Howe believed a crime had been committed but just couldn’t tell who did it.

And troubled by Hill’s menacing words to Espinal (you know them by now) … yet conscious of her goading Hill in a secret taping released in provocative piecemeal fashion by KCTV5.

"He wants to get back and do what he needs to do, to be a father and to be a player," Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said of star wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the first day of Chiefs Training Camp in St. Joseph.

Whatever it is we all might feel, though, there is a piece of common ground to consider as we go forward regarding Hill — whose mindset Reid momentarily struggled to describe when he said Hill was “remorseful” about what he had put the Chiefs through and “he had to go through” before simply calling it a “sensitive situation.”

And that’s to think about best-case scenarios when it comes to Hill, who had been on a redemptive trajectory that led last August to the expungement of his three-year deferred sentence.

Whatever you think happened or however you perceive Hill, we can all probably agree that the health and safety of his now-4-year-old and the twins recently born to Espinal is paramount. And we can be thankful that this remains under the scrutiny of the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Given the evident toxicity of the relationship between Espinal and Hill, it also seems that their breakup and apparent intent to parent separately will make for a more stable environment for all.

Finally, though, there is this:

Much as I thought the Chiefs shouldn’t have drafted Hill in 2016, I also thought … well, they did.

So what are we supposed to want to have happen from here?

Certainly not something that validates those concerns.

We should want him to succeed in life and in football, two notions that may go together for someone who comes from a rugged background.

Even as we might lament that he now is getting what is effectively a third chance, we should want him to grow and be an example of redemption and hope, shouldn’t we?

Even if the Chiefs would do better to be transparent about what Reid means by saying Hill “has some obligations that he’ll take care of as he goes,” the truth is that his most promising path toward providing as a father and achieving stability in his life is on the field is among coaches and friends and teammates who care about him.

“He obviously wants to be a part of the team, be part of everyone around here,” said Mahomes, who has been throwing with Hill and other receivers he considers part of a brotherhood. “And we obviously want to be a part of his journey and his success.”

Hill’s return is going to be complicated in a number of ways, and even unpalatable to some.

But trying to come to terms with it is another matter.

Trust is and should be a hard-earned term, and what Reid calls being “comfortable” with Hill coming back will be another matter for some.

But the truth is there is common ground for all who have been so divided on this these last few months, and that’s to root for the optimum to emerge out of this mess.

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Vahe Gregorian has been a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star since 2013 after 25 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has covered a wide spectrum of sports, including 10 Olympics. Vahe was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his master’s degree at Mizzou.