Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

November 29, 2018 at 2:10 am.

–The Chiefs haven’t seen Eric Berry on the field for a game in more than 14 months, so the sight of No. 29 back on the practice field Wednesday after missing the first 11 games of the season provided head coach Andy Reid with a reason to smile.

“It’s good to see him getting back healthy,” Reid said. “One thing you know about (Berry), this is killing him to watch. He loves to play. It tears him up not to be out there.”

Berry missed all but one game of the 2017 season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon, but it’s actually been a painful right heel injury keeping him sidelined this season. While Reid says it’s great to have Berry back on the practice field, he’s in no rush to push his veteran safety too far too fast.

“I think he’s as curious as we are to see how he feels,” Reid said. “But we’re going to go easy with it. He and I’ll talk and he’ll talk with the docs and the trainers. We’re not forcing him back though this week, next, whenever, I don’t care about that. Just make sure he’s healthy.”

The Chiefs defense underwent a makeover heading into this season, and chemistry remains a work in progress. The club ranks 28th in the league in allowing 26.7 points per game. Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton both cited communication as a problem early in the season as newcomers worked into the lineup.

Yet Berry has never played a game with cornerbacks Kendall Fuller or Orlando Scandrick among other key defenders. But Reid hopes the partnership on the back end of Berry and safety Ron Parker will help smooth the eventual transition.

“He and Ron have done that together and they’re not afraid to talk and communicate and make it loud,” Reid said. “He’s not going to be wishy washy on his calls. When he puts a call on you’re going to know it. I think they’ll be OK that way. He’s seen a lot over the years so I don’t think that will be too much of an issue.”

Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said Berry’s return is big for the entire team, not just the defense.

“He’s a guy that gets everyone hyped and ready to go, and that’s team wide whether it’s offense, special teams or defense,” Schwartz said. “Obviously the biggest impact is on his unit over there and kind of the down in, down out situation, but it’s great to have a guy like that around.”

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said even while on the sidelines, Berry set an example for the team’s younger players with his leadership and work ethic.

“He’s up here as much as everybody but coach Reid,” Mahomes said. “He has that mindset. He’s one of the hardest working dudes I’ve ever seen and no matter what’s happened this entire season, I know he wants to be on that field.”

Berry seems unlikely to play this week at the Oakland Raiders. Reid says he doesn’t care when Berry returns to the lineup, so long as his return comes at a time that make sense for the player. But after describing Berry’s status as day-to-day the first 11 weeks of the season, now Reid calls it “play-by-play.”

“We’ll just see how he’s doing,” Reid said. “There’s no pressure there with any of that, it’s just how he feels.”

–The architect behind the ascension of Patrick Mahomes as a college quarterback finds himself looking for a new job, and the success of his former pupil expects to make Kliff Kingsbury a popular candidate as an offensive coach in both the NFL and college ranks.

Mahomes gives his former mentor at Texas Tech a hearty endorsement as a NFL coach.

“I haven’t talked to him at all about where he’s thinking about going or where he’s thinking about ending up,” Mahomes said. “But I know if he did come to the NFL, he has the work ethic and he as the mind and he has the innovativeness, I guess you would say, to be in this league.”

Mahomes visited Kingsbury on the sidelines before Texas Tech’s 35-24 loss to Baylor Saturday. That dropped the Red Raiders to 5-7 on the season, and led to the dismissal of the coach. Kingsbury compiled a 35-40 record as head coach at his alma mater. But the eye-popping stats Mahomes posted at Texas Tech – including 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions during his junior campaign – put Kingsbury on the top of coaching lists for his ability to mentor young quarterbacks.

“I’m close to coach Kingsbury, he really helped my game and helped me as a person a lot,” Mahomes said. “He’s a genuine good person but at the same time a very smart football coach. I know he’ll land back on his feet somewhere else and I’m excited for the future with him.”

Whether he chooses the pro or college ranks, Mahomes had no doubt Kingsbury will find a good fit.

“Whatever he does, I know he’ll have success doing it,” Mahomes said.

–Mitchell Schwartz can’t stifle his smile when asked about the one player he won’t see this weekend when the Chiefs travel to Oakland. The Raiders no longer have Khalil Mack in the silver and black after his trade to Chicago earlier this season, and that makes life a bit easier for Schwartz.

“It’s a good thing,” Schwartz said with a laugh. “He presents a bevy of challenges.”

Schwartz is having arguably the best season of his seven-year career. Head coach Andy Reid calls Schwartz “a heck of a football player.” The Chiefs offense continues rolling right along, and it’s been a blast for the 29-year-old right tackle and his teammates along the line.

“It’s fun to be a part of this offense,” Schwartz said. “We do a lot of stuff that is offensive line friendly. Coach Reid being a former lineman understands the paths that we have week in and week out.”

Despite his resume and long-term success against players such as Denver’s Von Miller, Schwartz has never earned a Pro Bowl nomination, a snub Reid hopes gets rectified this year.

“I went through this with Jon Runyan who was phenomenal and it didn’t go his way for all that stuff,” Reid said, mentioning his longtime right tackle in Philadelphia who earned just one Pro Bowl bid in 14 NFL seasons. “But yet he was a great player, and Mitch is kind of in that same boat right now. He’s as deserving as anybody for an honor.”

But Schwartz gives credit to his former opponent Mack along with Miller and Los Angeles Chargers pass rushers Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa. He says facing those players six times a year in the AFC West sharpened his game.

“You’ve got to go against the best a lot,” Schwartz explained. “I think that gives you good experience when you’ve seen Von’s speed, you’ve seen Melvin’s speed, you’ve seen Khalil’s power and Bosa’s maneuverability. If you block those guys then there’s not anyone better than those set of guys.”

The Raiders defensive front looks much different without both Mack and defensive end Bruce Irvin, whom the team released earlier this season. Fifth-round pick Maurice Hurst Jr. from Michigan leads the team with four sacks at defensive tackle. No one else still on the team has more than one sack on the season.

But Schwartz, who spent a few seasons on struggling teams in Cleveland during his first four years in the league, says the Chiefs can’t overlook the Raiders.

“We understand that any team can beat any team any given week,” Schwartz said. “Anyone on that defensive line can beat you any single play.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – Consecutive regular-season games with a sack for Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones, the longest active streak in the NFL. With a sack against the Oakland Raiders this Sunday, Jones can match the franchise record of eight straight games with a sack by Justin Houston over the 2014-15 seasons. Only five players have a longer streak than eight games since sacks became an official stat in 1981. Four sacks in his last two games give Jones a career-best nine sacks on the season.