KANSAS CITY – The Kansas City Chiefs continue to prepare for the 2019 season down one defensive starter.
The front office and defensive tackle Chris Jones, 24, are at a standstill over his contract. Jones is unlikely to attend Kansas City’s minicamp, which ran Tuesday-Thursday at the team’s training facility near Arrowhead Stadium.
Jones has been with the Chiefs since 2016, when they picked him during the second round of the NFL rookie draft. Last season, he led Kansas City in tackles for a loss with 21.5 and sacks with 15.5. His 2018 regular season stat line also included 40 total tackles (35 solo, five assisted), an interception and two forced fumbles.
Kansas City’s defensive players do not feel pressured to step up to fill the void left by Jones, cornerback Kendall Fuller assured reporters after Tuesday’s training session. Or at least he and his fellow defensive backs do not.
“We just worry about our group. … If I try to worry about what Chris is doing or anybody else is doing up front … that’s going to limit me … (in) what I’m doing,” Fuller, who joined the Chiefs in 2018 after two seasons with Washington, said. “So … (with) each group … you cut your own grass, do what you can do to help the defense and help the team.”
Anthony Hitchens, who joined the Chiefs as a free agent in 2018 after four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, is approaching the defensive unit’s development differently. As a linebacker, Hitchens must “focus on everyone,” he said. That is because he is the lone defensive player who is allowed, per NFL rules, to have a headset inside his helmet to relay defensive calls, he said.
“I’m the guy with the green dot getting everyone lined up,” he said, referring to the marker on football helmets that signifies which players have wireless headsets. “Just being a veteran and being a middle linebacker, I’m out there trying to learn every position. … It takes a little bit more studying, but … I signed up for it.”
The next phase of preparation for Hitchens, Fuller and the other Chiefs is preseason training camp. The Chiefs’ first open training camp practice is slated for July 26 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.
The Chiefs open the preseason Aug. 10 against Cincinnati at Arrowhead – with or without Jones.