ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Zach Fulton is a grizzled NFL veteran at the tender age of 24.
Fulton’s 22 career starts make him the most experienced interior offensive lineman on the team. He’s the Swiss Army knife of the group, capable of playing anywhere he’s needed. When the Chiefs need a leader for the team’s young linemen, he’s there too.
“I try to be available for any position that they need me at,” Fulton said.
Head coach Andy Reid points out this year’s offensive line is a new group, with rookie Parker Ehinger getting a look at left guard and free agent Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle. They join left tackle Eric Fisher, center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
“It’s important that they come together as we go here and work in there,” Reid said. “And Zach’s a rotational guy in that group too. We consider him one of the five. As you see it’s important that they’re all dancing the same dance.”
A sixth-round draft pick in 2014 from Tennessee, Fulton forced himself into the starting lineup as a rookie, starting all 16 games at right guard.
He proved his versatility a year ago, starting at both guard positions and center. Fulton started both playoff games after Morse was sidelined with a concussion. His contributions may have been even more valuable as a backup for a playoff team with his ability to seamlessly slide into multiple roles.
Duvernay-Tadif says Fulton provides assurance that if an injury strikes, the team can proceed without missing a beat.
“It’s unbelievable what he brings to the O-line,” he said. “It brings so much more confidence when you dress seven guys on Sunday and you know all seven guys can play.”
Fulton said his versatility has developed through experience.
“It kind of came with time, just playing both guard and center,” Fulton explained. “Through the past three camps I’ve been moving around a lot and just getting into the playbook and knowing what everybody is supposed to do. That helps out a lot.”
The ability to play all three positions has become second nature for Fulton. He says all three positions have their difficulties, but he has fun playing every single one of them.
“Honestly it’s not that difficult, he said. “You’ve got to be prepared, especially in game situations. We only dress about seven offensive lineman, so you know going into the game you might go into a position that you’re not as comfortable with as opposed to another one. It’s something you’ve got to be prepared for throughout the week.”
Through most of training camp thus far Fulton has played on the second team. He’s also shared time Ehinger at left guard with the first team.
Despite their competition, Fulton plays the role of mentor to help the rookie develop.
“I like Parker,” Fulton said. “He’s doing pretty good, he’s holding his own out there. We’ve been doing some sets when practice is done. He’ll ask me questions and I’ll do my best to answer them, to help him make that transition a little bit easier.”
As the leader of the second team offensive lineman, Fulton uses his experience to help get his teammates ready to play.
“I’ve seen a few more things than they have,” Fulton said. “I can spot out things that may be a little bit difficult to them, try to help them if I’m not playing center myself to get guys into the right places.”
Fulton is optimistic this year’s line will be better than it was a year ago.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Fulton said. “There are still some things we need to brush up on. But it’s still pretty early in camp. We haven’t even gotten to our first game yet. It’s going to get better with time.”