The Kansas City Chiefs made their final public appearance of this year's training camp, but they can't leave St. Joseph yet.
“It’s not over until tomorrow,” Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said following Wednesday’s morning practice at Missouri Western. “Coach put us in that mindset that today might be the last hard practice, but it’s still not over.”
The players and coaches remained in St. Joseph for a walkthrough and meetings later Wednesday. The Chiefs will hold a closed walkthrough inside the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex on Thursday before officially returning to Kansas City ahead of Friday’s preseason game versus the 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium.
“We still have a long way to go,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, even though we’re about to leave St. Joe. We feel good with where we’re at, but we can’t wait to put our skills up against the 49ers.”
The closed walkthrough on Thursday ends the portion of the preseason away from home.
There were few notable distractions in St. Joseph, aside from the media attention the past few days after running back Jamaal Charles injured his foot at practice Monday. One of only a handful of NFL teams still holding camp off-site, the Chiefs continued to house their players away from the public eye in Western’s dormitories, and they incurred no major injuries until Charles came up lame during a routine drill.
Rookie draft pick Sanders Commings broke his collarbone on the first day of rookie camp — a new wrinkle in coach Andy Reid’s first preseason with Kansas City — and continued to work on the side Wednesday along with Charles and rookie defensive end Mike Catapano (calf), repeatedly walking up and down a steep hill adjacent to GISC. Reid credited the surroundings with allowing the Chiefs’ players to focus on improving on the heels of a 2-14 2012 season under since-departed coach Romeo Crennel.
“It helps with the university and the setup here,” Reid said, echoing his initial assessment upon arrival to Western three weeks ago. “They’ve been phenomenal. I mean the people here — I tell you — I can’t say enough good things about them. From the guys that take care of the fields, these fields are incredible. To the food, and the food’s unbelievable. The people that take care of the rooms for the players, they’re clean; they make you’re bed; they do everything for you.
“It’s quite the setup, and they’ve just kind of bent over backward for us. Whatever we needed, we were able to get.”
The Chiefs’ fourth three-week stay in St. Joseph included unseasonably cool temperatures and encouraging crowds despite early practice times and no practices held inside Spratt Stadium. They drew a non-stadium practice crowd record of more than 3,800 fans for the first public practice on a Friday and increased that mark to more than 6,000 for a Saturday American Family Fun Day promotion.
None of the public workouts were moved inside GISC with the worst conditions a few morning rain showers and a couple of days with high humidity.
The fans who came out for practices were treated to an up-tempo camp which featured full contact and occasional live tackling — an extreme rarity in the tenures of Crennel and his predecessor, Todd Haley. The players praised the processes of Reid, known for running grueling camps in his lengthy tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, and similar work will continue next week at The University of Kansas Hospital Training Complex adjacent to Arrowhead.
“We’ll get to our in-season schedule,” Reid said. “It’s still training camp, training camp rules, but the schedule will be a little different.
“There’ll be pads; there’ll be hitting. There won’t be the same live periods we had here. Those are done.”
First comes the second preseason game, and Reid wouldn’t commit to Charles’ status. The star running back sat out a second straight practice in what Reid deemed precautionary, saying he believes there has been progress in the strained foot. The diagnoses from two orthopedic surgeons suggest Charles will be back soon, even if it’s not until the Chiefs open the regular season at Jacksonville in an attempt to have their best offensive threat healthy and ready to lead a turnaround.
The Chiefs won’t be back to St. Joseph until next summer, hopefully coming off a better year.
The 2014 training camp will mark the fifth and final year of Western’s guaranteed contract with the Chiefs, who must keep the preseason workouts in the state of Missouri until at least 2019. Moving all of camp back to Kansas City remains a possibility with a return to St. Joseph the only other likely scenario.
Reid seems to enjoy the getaway stay, and even if the Chiefs did bolt, the veteran coach sees how GISC and other facility upgrades continue to benefit the host school.
“What a great setup here,” Reid said. “If I’m an athlete, this setup right here? I’m going to look at this school right here. It’s an incredible situation for athletics.”