There’s just one step remaining for the Kansas City Chiefs 2019 training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph to be in full swing: the first full-team practice, which is on Saturday afternoon.
Unlike this week’s practices — which were limited to quarterbacks, rookies and players returning from injury — both the Saturday session (scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time) and the Sunday session (set for 8:15 a.m.) are open to the public. Team autograph sessions will take place following both practices. For complete information about attending Chiefs training camp — including cost, maps, the public practice schedule and frequently asked questions — visit the official training camp page at Chiefs.com.
Most of the media attention on Friday was focused on the annual Anthony Sherman Day shenanigans — which this year, featured a NASCAR racer and a military truck in a camp battle nobody knew we needed — but there was serious business at hand, too.
Shortly before veteran players began arriving at MWSU’s Scanlon Hall, Chiefs president Mark Donovan conducted his traditional training camp press availability. Since this season is the last one in which the Chiefs are contracted to be in St. Joseph, there were several questions about what the Chiefs would do about training camp in 2020.
10 years ago, the Chiefs committed to five years at MWSU (with options for more) and 10 in the state of Missouri. That commitment concludes after this season. Next season, the Chiefs could be somewhere else entirely.
“We felt that was important when we did the deal,” Donovan said. “Missouri is a very, very big part of the Kansas City Chiefs and that will factor into our decision. But the Kingdom is large and there are opportunities out there that we haven’t even uncovered yet. It is a little premature to say that we are going one way or the other. We are here in St. Joe. We are going to have a great camp in St. Joe. We are excited about St. Joe.”
Donovan said that other venues have already expressed interest in hosting training camp, but it would be difficult to exceed what the team sees as a convenient and efficient setup in St. Joseph.
“I think somebody is going to have to come in here and overwhelm us to take it away from St. Joe,” he said. “We’ve had a great relationship here, but those things happen in business, so we’ll see what happens. I know it’s the biggest question of the day because we’re here. I would tell you that our relationship with St. Joe, and with Missouri Western specifically, is really good. We’ve had our stumbles. We’ve had our obstacles that we’ve had to come over and we just find ways. That’s what we will do with this. We’ll just take a step back after camp. We’ll sit down and we’ll talk about what’s out there, we’ll talk about what they want to do, and we’ll make a decision.”
But Donovan made it very clear that whatever the Chiefs do, it’s likely that training camp will not be at the team’s practice facility in Kansas City — a practice that more and more NFL teams have been adopting. Donovan said that Andy Reid’s preference is to do training camp away from home.
“He likes being away at this time to build the camaraderie,” he explained. “Brett Veach, our general manager, also thinks it’s an advantage to get the guys away. You eat together, you sleep together, you play together, you practice together, you meet together, you’re around each other a lot more. Especially as you get into the season with new guys coming in, it’s a great introduction to our culture as a team and as an organization.
“Our players feed off the energy. It is a little different when you’re practicing in front of the fans than when you are just grinding, especially when you get to the second half of camp. We think that’s a big advantage.”
Donovan said that their message to the players is that interacting with fans is important, too.
“I’ll also give a speech tonight to our team and I will make the point that every single point of contact is an opportunity. You may think you’re an unsigned rookie who’s not going to make the team or you may think you’re the biggest free agent signing in the NFL, but when that little fan comes up to you and asks for an autograph, that’s an opportunity. We see it. It resonates. With research, the average fan becomes a fan before the age of 12. Once they’re a fan, they stay a fan of that team, 98-percent of them do. The opportunity to create that bond and that player, whoever it is, can create that bond, it’s an opportunity for them.”
Clearly, the opportunities for those kinds of interactions are greater when training camp is at a venue fairly close to Kansas City. But when Donovan was asked again about the potential for the team to move training camp farther away — and possibly outside the state — he wasn’t willing to be pinned down.
“It is hard to answer that question because I can’t tell you everybody who is bidding on it or who wants to bid on it right now,” he said. “So, I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘That is a really important point,’ and then somebody comes from a different state and blows us away with an offer. Then we say, ‘We went there,’ and then we have people in this group criticize me for saying something that I didn’t before.”
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