KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All was good for Branden Albert in his long-awaited return to Chiefs camp Tuesday. His arrival was hailed by his coaches and teammates, and as the Chiefs continued their offseason practice, Albert took his spot at starting left tackle as he had been promised
That, Albert said, was what he wanted all along. But, until the Chiefs exhausted all trade possibilities for Albert and he was told he could play his favored position, he wasn’t sure he would get that in Kansas City.
“I never was sad, never disgruntled, just a little confused,” Albert said. “Everything is clear now. It’s in the past.”
Albert indicated that all along he never made his issue with the Chiefs personal. He insisted he wanted to remain with the Chiefs, the only NFL team he’s ever played for.
Albert was drafted by the Chiefs in the first round in 2008 and has been their starting left tackle ever since.
“I had to go through the process and now I’m here,” Albert said. “I’m happy to be back. I’m a little rusty. I’ve got to knock a lot of rust off. I’m a little behind but I’m veteran and I know what it takes to catch up and I will.”
What could have turned into a volatile situation for the Chiefs seems to have ended uneventfully. Albert is working under a one-year contract worth almost $10 million, so things could flare again next year.
But at the least the Chiefs are happy with the short-term ending to the Albert issue. The sides couldn’t agree to terms of a new, long-term contract over the winter, so in March the Chiefs designated him as their franchise player, effectively preventing Albert from becoming a free agent and negotiating a long-term contract with another team.
Albert almost immediately registered his unhappiness. He stayed away from the offseason program that started in early April, the Chiefs explored trade possibilities involving Albert with the Miami Dolphins and then selected a tackle, Eric Fisher, with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Albert in the meantime went public with his grievances with the Chiefs, something he said he now regrets.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Albert said. “Through this whole process, I realize I made mistakes. I’ll grow from it and move on. I should not have said certain things. You know what I said. I’m just happy I’m here.”
Albert was a fresh arrival and a new practice participant on Tuesday and did what he could to blend in.
“I thought Branden came back in good shape,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We moved at a pretty fast clip today and he was able to hang in there, looked like he held his own.”
The offensive line had a much different look than the one the Chiefs used at their full-squad mini-camp. Albert was the left tackle and Fisher was on the right, replacing Donald Stephenson and Geoff Schwartz.
Rodney Hudson was the center and Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah the guards, though Stephenson also took some turns at guard.
“A lot gets made of (who’s playing) left tackle,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “These days, you’ve got to have all the spots (covered). You’ve got to have both guys. So I’m glad he stayed, glad they worked it out.”
Albert is the veteran of the Chiefs offensive line. He has started 71 games, far more than any of their other line regulars.
As the senior member, Albert said he felt an obligation to help all the linemen. That includes Fisher, who he said he holds no grudge against.
“Why would I not interact with Eric Fisher?”Albert said. “If anybody knows me … I’ve been here five years and that’s not the type of person I am. If anything I’m going to help him the best I can to help us win. I’m the old guy on the offensive line now so I’m willing to help every guy on the offensive line.”
Albert started only one of the final six games last season after experiencing problems with back spasms. He talked Tuesday as if they were in the past.
“My back is feeling good,”Albert said. “I felt pretty good today moving around. I’ve just got to get the mental down and get some of this technique down.”