Veteran chefs have something to prove in 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Mecole Hardman knows the exhilaration of coming off the pitch as the Super Bowl champion. Last February, he and his Kansas City Chiefs teammates were also bitterly disappointed to lose the biggest game of the season.

“You always have that bad taste in your mouth,” Hardman said of his team’s 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. “I think as a collective group we are all trying to come back and get rid of that taste of losing this game.”

The Kansas City veterans dropped off in the Scanlon Hall dorm on the Missouri Western State University campus on Monday, ready to put aside last season’s disappointment and focus on the new opportunity that presents itself. The full squad begins training camp training sessions on Tuesday, and it’s the start of a year of ‘prove it’ for many players, like Hardman, who are approaching a crossroads in their career. career.

Hardman posted a strong rookie campaign in 2019 with 26 catches for 538 yards and six touchdowns. The big plays, however, slipped away from the receiver last season as he saw his receiving yards drop from 20.7 to 13.7 yards. He finished the campaign with 41 catches for 560 yards and four scores.

The 23-year-old is counting on a breakout in his third year. He admits his rookie season has been overwhelming at times, and last year’s pandemic offseason has stunted his potential growth.

“I think it helps me a lot going into this training, those OTAs that I didn’t really have over the last couple of years because I was always in the water trying to swim for real,” he said. said Hardman. “Now it’s like I’m going to float, I’m ready, I’m ready to go. Now is the time to take on these challenges and try to prove myself.

One of the reasons Hardman and the Chiefs offense struggled in the Super Bowl loss is due to injuries up front along the offensive line. The club sent their first-round selection in this year’s draft to Baltimore to acquire Orlando Brown Jr. to help anchor a rebuilt offensive line to the left tackle. Brown is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2021 and faces the challenge of illustrating to the Chiefs why he deserves a long-term extension after the season.

This is nothing new for Brown as he enters his first training camp with the club.

“I’ve taken it upon myself throughout my life to really feel like I have something to prove,” Brown said. “I’m a very limited athlete as a player, as a person I’m not the smallest of guys, obviously I don’t often win a battle for leverage so I always felt like I had a lot to prove. “

The 6-foot-8 lineman used his offseason to study the film of other towering tackles such as Jonathon Ogden, Tre Thomas and Jon Runyan, who spent nine seasons playing straight tackle for the head coach of the Chiefs Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

“It was a lot to take away from these different players,” said Brown. “Obviously we have a lot of similarities in terms of heights and heights and how Coach Reid was able to use them in his offense.”

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Anthony Hitchens understands he is entering a new phase of his career in his eighth season in the league. He lost weight in the offseason, entering training camp at 231 pounds, and spent more time running this offseason than in previous years.

Labeled as the ‘glue’ of the Kansas City defense by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Hitchens, 29, remain under contract until the 2022 season, but the Chiefs could save $ 8.5 million by releasing the veteran after this season. That makes it sort of a contract year for Hitchens, but he says it’s not on his mind to go into training camp.

“Usually I don’t even think about things like that because I prove it to myself,” Hitchens said. “It’s much deeper than proving to a coaching staff and the organization. It’s more about my personal goals, and I have my own goals. I don’t share them with anyone at all for a reason. It’s just what it is. Every year I have to prove to myself that I can play.

Much like Hardman, Hitchens is ready to put Super Bowl loss back in time and move forward with a new season.

“There is work to be done,” Hitchens said. “It’s a new year that begins today. We have to start all over and try to accomplish it again this year. “

While the Super Bowl loss forced the Chiefs to re-evaluate and re-evaluate, that doesn’t appear to have taken away the swagger from back-to-back AFC champions.

“On the contrary, it made us more confident knowing we could do it again,” Hardman said. “I think the motivation for this match gave us more confidence. It’s more like we don’t want that anymore, we don’t want that feeling anymore. “

NOTES: The Chiefs placed long snapper James Winchester on the reserve / COVID-19 list and waived wide receiver Chris Finke with an injury designation. … These measures have enabled the club to confirm the signing of defensive end Alex Okafor, who agreed to the terms of a one-year contract with the club last week. The team also signed free agent long snapper Drew Scott. … Chiefs chairman Mark Donovan has announced that the team is retiring longtime mascot Warpaint, a two-time world champion Pinto who galloped across the pitch from GEHA Field to Arrowhead Stadium before games and after the Chiefs took off. scored a touchdown.

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