Excitement is all around 1 Arrowhead Drive. A recent Super Bowl ring unveiling and banner raising precede Thursday’s season-opener against the Houston Texans, when the Chiefs will try to do it again.
But the days ahead of prepping for the Week 1 opponent were filled with anxiety and tough decisions, dropping the roster to 53 active players without preseason film to go off.
General manager Brett Veach described the weekend as “bittersweet” Sunday morning in a Zoom call with reporters.
Among the toughest decisions came in releasing 2018 second-round pick Breeland Speaks, who adjusted to a new scheme after a quiet rookie year only to miss the year with a knee injury. Andy Reid called the defensive line group the team’s deepest position, and the Chiefs chose upside in youth rather than giving Speaks another go.
“His rookie year he did some things that he could really lay a foundation on,” Veach said. “We all know he came in a little out of shape the next year. And then he had the injury. I think when you get behind the 8-ball in professional football, it’s tough. And then when you get behind the 8-ball on a roster with a deep defensive line, it’s even tougher.
“The guys that are on our active roster, we felt that day by day, the way they graded out, they just performed better, and they deserved to be on the team.”
One of the players to beat him out is former Missouri S&T defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton, one of three undrafted rookies to make the team with former Mizzou offensive tackle Yasir Durant and punter Tommy Townsend.
The Chiefs first saw Wharton at the East-West Shrine Game before signing the Division-II product following the draft.
“Really the first day that we had players in the building, just going out there and watching group work, he just kind of stood out,” Veach said. “I mean he was really twitchy, athletic, worked his tail off. ... The kid just found a way to make plays and continue to get better and just answer the bell at each step.
Wide receiver Marcus Kemp was on his way to a roster spot in 2019 before a knee injury prior to camp. He was re-signed last month and beat out Jody Fortson and Gehrig Dieter, who both returned to the practice squad.
“Ot always comes down to special teams. And I know that you guys know that (special teams coordinator) Dave (Toub) talked about Marcus Kemp and the job that he did. He was one of our better special teams performers before he got hurt,” Veach said.
“He came back. Credit to the kid — he came back; the kid worked his tail off.”
The Chiefs announced 15 of the possible 16 additions to the practice squad Sunday, which can include six veterans not typically eligible for a spot this year due to the coronavirus. Those signings include: LB Darius Harris; DB Lavert Hill; DT Braxton Hoyett; DB Chris Lammons; RB DeAndre Washington; DE Tim Ward; QB Matt Moore; S Rodney Clemons; WR Kalija Lipscomb; WR Gehrig Dieter; OL Darryl Williams; WR Maurice Ffrench; LB Omari Cobb; QB Jordan Ta’amu; and WR Jody Fortson.