Shaun Draughn already knows the value of a strong preseason.
As one of only a handful of veterans already at Chiefs training camp, the rookies can look to him for advice — even if the running back’s NFL experience is limited. On Tuesday, the Chiefs held the first of three non-public practices at Missouri Western with rookies, quarterbacks and selected eligible veterans, a valuable chance at repetitions for unproven guys looking to catch Kansas City coaches’ eye during the next three weeks.
Offseason surgery for a sports hernia allowed Draughn, a 2011 undrafted free agent out of North Carolina, to use an injury exemption for field time ahead of the full team’s arrival later this week. All players must report to St. Joseph by Thursday.
“Same thing every year,” said Draughn, who turned a stellar camp and preseason (32 carries, 114 yards) into a full-time roster spot last year (16 games, 233 rush yards, two touchdowns; 24 catches for another 144 yards and occasional kickoff return duties). “This is a make-it league. I used to hear that all the time last year. Every play, you have to take advantage of, and it’s the same thing this year.”
The opposite can be true for those who miss time.
On Tuesday, 38 players were on the practice fields, but one noticeable name left practice early and didn’t return. Defensive back Sanders Commings — a fifth-round pick out of Georgia — left about midway through the 1½ hour-long practice after injuring his left shoulder. He jumped to defend a pass and landed awkwardly on the unpadded joint.
Coach Andy Reid said after practice that Commings had already been taken for X-rays, and later in the day, the Chiefs confirmed a broken left collarbone, which will require multiple weeks of recovery time. A cornerback at Georgia, many expected Commings to transition to safety, and depth at that spot likely takes a hit.
In addition to Commings, defensive back Malcolm Bronson — a rookie free agent out of McNeese State — missed practice (knee), placed on the physically unable to perform list for an injury suffered during college. He was the only player out of 39 eligible in camp to not practice Tuesday.
The participants also didn’t include No. 1 overall draft pick Eric Fisher, the offensive tackle out of Central Michigan. Reid said talks were continuing between general manager John Dorsey and Fisher’s agent, but there’s no timetable for his camp arrival.
There’s no early concern on Fisher’s absence with early practices designed to shake off any mental rust accumulated during a month-long layoff from organized team activities.
“I thought retention was good,” Reid said. “Getting our footing and our speed up on both sides of the ball I think is important. We’re not there yet, which you see in the first couple of days, but I’m happy with the effort.”
The opening practice included individual drills and 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations. Due to the limited number of participants, which will increase to roughly 90 for Friday’s first full-team workout, each snap included almost every player, and some position groups were noticeably thinner than others.
The only two defensive linemen were South Harrison grad Brad Madison and undrafted rookie Rob Lohr (Vanderbilt).
“There’s not a lot of offensive lineman (either),” Reid said. “You’ve got like one-deep.”
Other position groups were able to take advantage of a veteran presence.
Draughn, tight end Tony Moeaki and wide receiver Donnie Avery were all full participants after passing physicals in their return from offseason injuries. Coupled with starting quarterback Alex Smith and backups Chase Daniel and Ricky Stanzi, there were enough veterans to help the rookies in the re-acclimation process.
“I think it’s an advantage to every position group,” said rookie tight end Travis Kelce, a third-round pick out of Cincinnati. “When you’ve got guys like Smith and Moeaki and, you know, Chase Daniel and guys that have done this before and been through this situation before it’s an advantage to everybody because they’re out there helping every single position group get to where they need to be and do what they need to do.”
Rookies and veterans alike continue to adjust to a new system in Reid’s first Kansas City camp.
Draughn attended the opening minicamp this year before undergoing the surgery in hopes of recovering in time for training camp. The plan worked, and now he starts the process of proving himself and earning a roster spot all over again — to a new coach for nearly every player on the roster.
“(Missing time) put me in a different perspective,” said Draughn, who should compete for a backup spot behind Jamaal Charles with rookie Knile Davis, among others. “I was actually coaching other guys. I learn better that way.
“Competition makes everybody better.”