KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Offseason training activities are optional for NFL players, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid underlined and punctuated that fact during his Thursday press conference following the third day of the team’s workouts.
“It’s voluntary,” Reid said. “They can be here or not be here. It’s up to them.”
Reid used the word “voluntary” eight times, sometimes as a one-word answer, when asked about the absence of safety Eric Berry, linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Marcus Peters.
The three defensive starters are the only Chiefs veterans yet to make an appearance during OTAs. Linebackers Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Dadi Nicolas along with tight end Travis Kelce and guard Parker Ehinger have attended practice but not participated in live drills.
The coach indicated he knew the trio of defensive leaders would not be in attendance for the option portion of the offseason program.
“I had a pretty good idea,” he said.
Reid appeared more bothered by the questions than the absence of his three veteran defensive leaders.
“I just coach the guys that are here,” Reid said. “That’s what I do. The guys that are here are hungry for reps and that will do nothing but help us.”
The team has seven more voluntary workouts May 30-June 1 and June 6-9 before the mandatory minicamp takes place June 13-15.
OTAs mark the third and final phase of the NFL offseason program, and the only portion where teams can hold full practices, albeit without contact.
Reid said it’s much more difficult to teach during the second phase of the program, particularly on defense.
“You get a lot more done offensively, even though it’s against air, but you have a ball and you can run plays,” Reid said about the second phase of the offseason program. “Defense, they’re going against trash cans. It’s a little tougher.”
Once players get the opportunity to line up against one another after five months away from action, emotions can boil quickly.
Even established veterans get caught up in the heat of competition. During a no-huddle drill Thursday, linebacker Dee Ford found himself in coverage against wide receiver Albert Wilson. After the ball went toward the opposite of the field, Ford hugged Wilson and celebrated.
“I locked him down!” Ford shouted toward on lookers in the back of the end zone. “You saw it! I locked him down!”
Reid enjoys seeing the players push one another and express themselves on the field.
“That way you get better, you’re just not going through an exercise,” Reid said.