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Chiefs training camp notebook: Travis Kelce, Juan Thornhill look to be 100 percent

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The Kansas City Chiefs opened up training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri on Wednesday with quarterbacks, rookies and injured players.

With only 40-something players in camp, it was all eyes on a couple of key players returning from injury — tight end Travis Kelce (ankle), rookie safety Juan Thornhill (calf) and offensive lineman Cam Erving (shoulder). All three participated fully in Chiefs practice.

“It was great to get some of these guys that had been injured last year an opportunity to get out… to get them out and get work in,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after practice. “All and all, a good day.”

Reid specifically said that Kelce did a “nice job.”


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“We’re easing him back in,” Reid said. “I thought he moved around well — I didn’t see anything lingering from his surgery. [He] caught a few balls.”

“I’m 100,” Kelce himself added. “I’m 100 percent flying out there, having some fun. Didn’t have any issues today. There’s one thing about football — there’s nothing you can do to get ready for what you’re about to encounter out there on that field.”

Kelce said that his left ankle had bothered him over the course of the last “two or three years.” It’s worth noting that over those three seasons, Kelce compiled 22 regular-season touchdowns and nearly 3,500 combined yards.

“I wouldn’t say it bothered me to the point where it hindered my game. It was just something that was nagging — really Monday and Tuesday was where it got me the most — and sometimes, here and there in practice I’d roll my ankle just because of how loose the joint was. Other than that, though, just playing through it. There’s a lot of guys that probably had a lot worse going on, especially on the (Chiefs) squad.”

Kelce said the “cleanup” procedure stabilized his left ankle joint to make him more comfortable while playing. Similarly to Kelce, Thornhill was thrilled to be back after missing Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp.


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“It felt great, honestly,” Thornhill said, “especially having a couple weeks off not playing football and being able to get back out there, get your legs working again and get yourself moving is always a great feeling to get back on the field.”

A reporter later asked Thornhill if he was nervous with the first professional training camp of his career.

“Listen— I ain’t ever nervous. I’m ready to go at all times. I’m going to get in here — I might have to throw up with a couple of them,” he laughed, “but I’ll definitely have to get my feet wet sooner or later because we got a game in two weeks. I’m not nervous; I’m just ready to go out there and play football.”

It is one thing for the trio of Kelce, Erving and Thornhill to be practicing fully now, but the key day to watch will be the Chiefs’ first full day of padded work next week.

As expected, both rookie linebacker Darius Harris and rookie defensive end Tim Ward watched practice from the sideline.

Observations

  • The temperature stayed in the mid-70s throughout the morning practice that began at 8:40 a.m. Arrowhead Time. The heat is mild for St. Joe at this time of year. For the players, media and fans’ sake, let’s hope it stays that way.
  • Three camp battles of note have already begun: second-string tight end, second-string center and third-string quarterback.
  • There are eight tight ends on the roster, and the TE2 position is so wide open that every tight end except Neal Sterling is already in camp. I asked Andy Reid about the unique situation at that spot: “This is probably the deepest we’ve been at that spot since I’ve been here (2013) for this camp (Wednesday to Friday). Again, they’ve got to compete and sort it out. They’ve got someone with [Travis Kelce], who has been there, and they could talk to him and see how it’s done. [Kelce] is good with sharing that stuff, along, obviously, with Tom Melvin coaching. We’ve got to come out with some tight ends out of this. And they know they have opportunities.” Based on previous comments from Reid, Deon Yelder probably leads the pack, but it is anybody’s job to take home over the next month or so.
  • If Austin Reiter is the starting center, which we expect, it looks like rookie Nick Allegretti and Jimmy Murray are vying for the backup center role. I like Allegretti for the job, as the Chiefs said they selected him mostly for the talent he showed at the center position.
  • Reid confirmed that the QB3 spot is a battle between Chase Litton and Kyle Shurmur, who were already splitting reps on Wednesday. No clear-cut win on the day for either quarterback.
  • The starting offensive line isn’t here yet, so I thought it was interesting to see Cam Erving mixing in at tackle. We’ve long thought that Erving would get an opportunity to win the left guard job from Andrew Wylie, but perhaps the Chiefs profile him more so as a swing tackle. Erving has the ability to play every position on the line, so it’s important to remember here that one day is just that: one day. We could very well see him playing elsewhere Thursday and into the weekend.
  • Rookie punter Jack Fox is the only specialist in camp at the moment. He will get an opportunity to try to unseat 14-year incumbent Dustin Colquitt.
  • The defense had two interceptions on Wednesday, both in seven-on-seven work. Defensive back Herb Miller intercepted Chad Henne off of a bobbled ball by running back Marcus Marshall. Linebacker Raymond Davidson had an easy pick off of Patrick Mahomes by way of a miscommunication with Deon Yelder.
  • The standouts on offense Wednesday were Mecole Hardman, who seems to be coming along when it comes to timing with Mahomes, John Lovett, who was catching the ball everywhere and Cody Thompson, who had an outstanding catch you may watch below.

Tweets of note

Quote(s) of the day

  • Travis Kelce when asked about what’s different this year in Patrick Mahomes: “I think he’s in tip-top shape… He’s a heavy dude, so he’s naturally going to be a big guy in the pocket, but he’s looking a little leaner in terms of his confidence. He had a lot of confidence last year, but this one is confidence in a direction. Last year, it was just confidence to say, ‘Hey, I’ll figure it out.’ Now he has a lot of things figured out and it’s more so confidence with direction and taking this team to a Super Bowl.”
  • Andy Reid, when friend-of-the-site Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest brought up their exchange (as can be seen above or by clicking here) from Tuesday: “You got a lot of pub for that, by the way.”
  • Juan Thornhill on going up against Patrick Mahomes’ no-look passes: “I mean, it’s hard to explain, honestly. You think you going to make a play and the ball go over there, and you went this way. I’m just like, ‘You got me again.’ That’s all I can say.”

What’s next?

The quarterbacks and rookies will practice for two more days — Thursday morning and Friday morning — before being joined by the veterans for their first full-team practice on Saturday afternoon.

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