The Kansas City Chiefs are thankful that it is the NFL officials that are locked out this year and not the players.
In 2011 KC did not get out of the gate very fast and it took their rookies a good portion of the season before they started to contribute. Some of that can be attributed to Todd Haley’s preseason plan but the lockout probably also factored in. By the end of the season, only Justin Houston and Allen Bailey made significant contributions.
2012 is a different story. This new crop of rookies will have the usual benefit of rookie mini-camp and OTA practices before they get to training camp. Hopefully that means they’ll be able to contribute sooner. Some recent quotes from KCChiefs.com seem to indicate that the rookies are already starting to catch up.
“When I first got here, it was so fast,” said DB Tysyn Hartman at Monday’s post-practice media session. “It was hard to think straight, but now a few weeks into it, it’s starting to slow down and go a little slower pre-snap and everything.”
Another benefit of these early practices that was likely lost last season as the team scrambled to get ready for the season, is the mentoring of the rookies by the veteran players.
“Eric (Berry) and Kendrick (Lewis) have done a great job helping us out and giving us any tips and pointers in between plays,” Hartman added. “When we come off to the sideline, they’re always there to help us out any way they can. I couldn’t ask for more from them.”
The offseason should also help out some of KC’s second-year players who struggled last season. First-round pick Jonathan Baldwin was more behind than anyone last season thanks to an injury suffered in training camp. This year, Baldwin is getting extra reps thanks to Dwayne Bowe’s absence at OTAs, and he has apparently been rising to the occasion.
Rookie Devon Wylie showed early in camp that it can be hard for a WR to adjust. He dropped a number of passes at first but now he seems to be getting his legs (and hands) under him.
“It’s all starting to click,” said Wylie after Monday’s practice. “You’re remembering terms, things are starting to become second nature all of a sudden. They have a big expectation (of me) to do multiple things because I did multiple things in I’m grateful—it’s an awesome position to be in and I just got to make sure I’m doing my best.”
The rookies are likely in for more shocks along the way. The intensity is sure to pick up again at training camp, again during the preseason and again once the games count. Still, it is good to know that this season the entire team is getting the benefit of a full offseason.