KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The ball fluttered through the air, thrown with a bit of loft so it could fly over the defensive coverage. It appeared the pass was going to be too long, looking like just another June incompletion for an NFL offense prepping for the 2016 season.
Last year, the ball would have hit the ground first. That wasn’t the case Wednesday on the Chiefs practice field.
With a sudden burst of speed, rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill separated from the defensive back trying to shadow him. He tiptoed along the sideline, stretched out his arms and with the ball coming in over his head, caught the throw and skipped into the end zone.
It’s June and real football is still many weeks away. But that catch by the Chiefs’ fifth-round draft choice was just another moment to remember from Hill. There is one more practice for the Chiefs on Thursday, and when matters wrap up, there is no question who will be considered the best offensive performer of the offseason – Hill, the 5-10 rookie out of West Alabama.
“I came a long way from rookie camp,” Hill said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve learned a lot from the veterans (Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson and Chris Conley.) Those guys have shown me the right way to do things and how to be a pro. It’s real exciting that those guys wanted to teach me and the other rookies. “
Hill has one attribute that can’t be taught: Speed.
“He’s pretty fast,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen, but, yeah, he’s certainly up there. I don’t want to compare him, but he’s certainly one of the fastest guys I’ve seen to come in.”
There is little question he is the fastest man currently on the Chiefs roster. During a workout for NFL scouts back in March, he was clocked in 4.24 seconds over 40 yards. As a high school sprinter in Georgia, he was timed at 20.14 seconds in the 200 meters. At the time (2012), it was the second fastest 200 time in American high school-history.
But, he is not a sprinter playing football. Where Hill has stood out in the Chiefs offseason practices is how accomplished he’s been catching the football. He’s so consistent and productive that when he actually dropped a catchable throw on Wednesday, more than a few observers were very surprised.
“It doesn’t mean nothing, because there are no pads,” Hill said of his offseason highlights. “You can always read articles about fast guys making plays.
“I’m still learning; every day is a learning process for me. I have to get better every day. Whether its route running, blocking, catching; I’ve got to get better at all those things.”
There is no question that if he stays healthy, Hill will be a big-play factor as a receiver, runner and returner for the 2016 Chiefs. He will continue to work over the next five weeks and rather than go home to Georgia, Hill plans to stay in Kansas City and work at the Chiefs facility.
Offseason practices in the NFL are so restricted by labor agreement rules that it’s not really football. There is no tackling, no real blocking and physical contact is verboten. For the offense, it’s a passing camp and thus the only positions that can show their skills are quarterbacks and receivers.
Tyreek Hill says he knows tougher days are ahead for him when the Chiefs converge on Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph in the last week of July for training camp.
“It’s going to be physical from what I’ve heard,” Hill said. “I can’t wait.”