Chiefs’ Tavon Rooks embraces competition for roster spot

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The Chiefs have 15 offensive linemen in training camp and aren’t likely to carry more than 10 on the active 53-man roster into the regular season

Competition outside of the established starters leading to final cuts will be tough, of course.

Aug. 2, 2014; St. Joseph, MO: Chiefs offensive tackle Tavon Rooks between drills at training camp at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Aug. 2, 2014; St. Joseph, MO: Chiefs offensive tackle Tavon Rooks between drills at training camp at Missouri Western State University. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

But offensive tackle Tavon Rooks looks forward to the task of battling for his spot.

“The biggest challenge is coming out every day, competing, staying focused,” Rooks said Sunday. “I’m trying not to get injured and doing your job and doing it to the best of your ability without making the same mistakes twice, and the mental mistakes because that can get you cut. You don’t want that.”

Rooks didn’t join the Chiefs until June 15, a day before the start of the mandatory minicamp, so he’s had to catch up familiarizing himself with the playbook.

The month off certainly helped the former Kansas State Wildcat in that endeavor.

“I think I’m in good shape with the playbook,” Rooks said. “Still lots to learn as far as picking up the blitz, how they want their sets and stuff like that, but the playbook is coming along great. I think it fits me well, so I’m just trying to do what I do best and just keep competing.”

The weeks leading to training camp also allowed Rooks an opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter, London, and girlfriend, Molly, and work with Don Abram at the All Levelz Training Center in Arizona.

The training paid off for the 6-foot-5 Rooks, who weighed 315 pounds when he signed in June.

The Chiefs, however, wanted him to lose weight before training camp.

“I got down to 303 pounds,” Rooks said. “I was at a good weight. They were excited about that; I was excited because I didn’t want to get fined. It was good. I came in ready to go, that’s what I was working on.”

The mental approach served Rooks well because he isn’t practicing at a position he’s accustomed to.

Rooks played right tackle in college, but the Chiefs need to identify a swing tackle and have worked Rooks at left tackle with the third-team offense through two days of training camp practices.

“I just don’t care as long as I make the squad,” Rooks said of playing the left side of the offensive line. “In this league, you got to play both. When I was at K-State throughout my whole college career, I played right tackle. It’s fun learning left, trying to get used to it, but it’s fun. I’m enjoying it.”

Rooks is new to the team and the offensive scheme, but he has apparently done enough to catch the eye of the coaching staff.

“He’s come in here and he’s done a nice job,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “He’s put himself in a good position to compete with the other guys at that position. It’s just a matter of studying and staying up on the information. He obviously has the size, strength and ability to play at this level. We’re just looking forward to when the pads get on to see what he has when the bullets are kind of flying for real.”

The pads are scheduled to come on Monday, where contact is allowed.

Rooks also will have the benefit of facing off against edge rushers like outside linebackers Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dee Ford, among others.

While Rooks is competing against fellow offensive linemen, he looks forward to practicing against some of the NFL’s premier pass rushers in an effort to hone his skills at the tackle position.

“They’re going to get me right,” Rooks said. “It’s not my first rodeo going against good pass rushers. I’ve been doing that all my life, but I’m happy to be playing against elite level because I know they’re going to get me work. That’s what I want and I want to get better. You got to beat the best to get better, so that’s what I’m hoping for.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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