Camp notebook: Johnson, Kelce shaking off rehab rust

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Rain encouraged the Kansas City Chiefs to accelerate their morning practice Wednesday on the outdoor fields at Missouri Western State University as the team’s rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans continue their preparations for the full camp opening Friday.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson takes part in position drills during the team’s training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., on July 25, 2017. (Photo by Matt Derrick, ChiefsDigest.com)

The three-day rookie camp also allows quarterbacks and veterans returning from injuries to shake off the rust from a long offseason.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson, recovering from surgery for an Achilles tendon rupture in December, relishes the opportunity to get his feet wet and knock off the cobwebs.

“Mentally I’m there, almost there all the way already,” Johnson said. “But physically, I get a little faster during camp, so it’s perfect.”

Tight end Travis Kelce underwent shoulder surgery in February, and is more than eager to get back on the field.

“It’s just good to be out there, get in the motions, catch a few balls from Alex (Smith) and get to work,” Kelce said.

Johnson targeted the opening of training camp for his return from surgery. This is the second recovery for the 34-year-old linebacker from Achilles surgery. The last time he had nearly a year of rehabilitation before the 2015 season.

“Mentally I wasn’t there because I didn’t play the whole season,” Johnson said. “This year I played most of the season, 75 percent or so. But at seven-and-a-half months removed from surgery, so it’s a little different.”

The Chiefs typically ease veterans returning from injury back into the mix, but Johnson believes he’s ready for full contact now.

“Of course, yeah, I’m a linebacker,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to embrace those moments. I’ll get back to talking noise to the running backs, talking noise to the offense. We get our competitive juices going, and I can’t wait.”

TYLER BRAY BATTLING FOR BACKUP ROLE

Nearly every season has meant competition in training camp for quarterback Tyler Bray. Last season he entered camp in a battle with Aaron Murray for the backup job, until the Chiefs added veteran Nick Foles. Bray still vanquished the competition for the third-strong job.

Now Bray finds himself in a battle with first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes for the No. 2 spot.

But it’s a more confident Bray fighting for a spot this year. He feels more mentally prepared to run the offense than a year ago.

“Last year I was there but I wasn’t where I am now,” Bray said. “I am able to get guys lined up, run the offense, don’t even need to think about what I need to do as far as calling the plays, getting out of the huddle Now it just comes natural.”

Bray said this is the first training camp in which he feels comfortable running the offense in its entirety.

“It takes a lot of time learning this offense,” Bray said. “You’re sitting there at night, you get back at 9 o’clock and you’ve still got to study and grind. Trying to get to sleep is a little tough, you’re sitting there thinking about the plays and what you did that day.”

KELCE SHOWS OFF NEW LOOK

One look at tight end Travis Kelce and you’ll notice something missing — a lot of hair.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce answers questions from the media following training camp practice in St. Joseph, Mo., July 26, 2017. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

The fifth-year veteran showed off a close-cropped cut at camp this week, eschewing his more familiar medium-cut, helmet-immune chic look.

“I knew it was going to be pretty hot so I just (shearing sound effect) straight off, man,” Kelce joked. “It’s that easy. Get rid of the excess weight.”

The 27-year-old tight end also had fun when asked if his offseason shoulder surgery cut down on his weight room work.

“Are you saying me arms look small right now?” Kelce said. “Cause it feels like you’re telling me my arms are small.”

On a serious note, Kelce said his surgically repaired shoulder poses no issues so far in camp.

“Feels great. Haven’t had any problems with it for these first two days in camp,” Kelce said. “I had a few dropped balls that I got to clean up but other than that we’re working.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It’s great. I used to play with him on Madden all the time and he was unstoppable. Growing up, you look up to a guy like that. You want to be like him when you grow up and to finally meet him, the first day he walked in I was kind of starstruck. I didn’t know what to say to him.”
— Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray on meeting coaching intern Michael Vick

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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