For the first time since 2019, the Chiefs have their rookies in the building during the offseason.
And instead of enduring virtual meetings like last offseason, when COVID-19 protocols precluded in-person gatherings, this year’s rookie group actually got on the field Friday for first day of a three-day rookie minicamp.
“Fortunately, we were able to do rookie minicamp this year,” said center Creed Humphrey, the Chiefs’ second of two second-round picks in the recent 2021 NFL Draft. “I’m excited to get to work, get better and really get comfortable here.”
Former Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton, the first of the Chiefs’ two second-round picks, agreed.
“Just being in Kansas City, I’m thankful to be here,” Bolton said. “I’m ready to get to work.”
Humphrey and Bolton joined the other members of their draft class — defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, wide receiver Cornell Powell, tight end Noah Gray and offensive lineman Trey Smith — for this weekend’s minicamp. All six players signed their rookie contracts Thursday and were present for duty Friday.
The Chiefs also have all eight of their undrafted rookie free agents, including quarterback Shane Buechele and linebacker Zayne Anderson, going through the paces over the next three days.
In total, there are 29 players, including select players from last season’s roster and five on a tryout basis, present in this camp. Of note, offensive lineman Lucas Niang, who opted out of the 2020 season after being selected in the third round of the draft, is here, too.
From the Chiefs’ point of view, the rookie minicamp marks the first time this offseason that the coaching staff can actually get their hands on these new players.
The ongoing pandemic prompted cancellation of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, prevented pre-draft visits from taking place and barred teams from conducting private workouts with draft prospects. So getting the rookies in town under close supervision was a major step for the Chiefs’ coaching staff.
Along with being taught team standards, they’re each given playbooks in anticipation of training camp and the 2021 season.
“I’m excited about the playbook,” Humphrey said. “There’s a lot of stuff that I like — great run schemes, great passing plays, everything like that. I’m excited to dive into it deep and really get everything done.”
Classroom work is typically followed by on-field install periods for team-related drills. Players will wear practice jerseys and helmets without full pads under the watchful eye of the Chiefs’ coaches. Full contact is not allowed, but that won’t detract from the moment they walk onto an NFL practice field for the first time.
“Definitely a surreal moment, just going out on the field and getting coached up by the coaches here,” Kaindoh said.
Starting May 25, the Chiefs’ veterans will join this group of new players for 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs). And Bolton, a high pick who projects as an early season contributor, plans to use his time wisely this weekend.
“At the end of the day, just trying to grow and learn the playbook,” he said. “... Just trying to soak everything up like learning the basics, fundamentals, how they practice, just how to become a Kansas City Chief.”