The Chiefs cast an unusually large net for defensive backs this offseason. They currently have 19, an inordinately large number even for this time of year.
Undrafted rookie Tysyn Hartman is the only one with area ties — he went to high school in Wichita and college at Kansas State. But that won’t be any advantage to him this summer when the Chiefs start cutting to a more manageable roster number.
What will help his cause are more plays like the one he made in practice this week. He picked up a lateral gone bad and ran it back.
Plays like that could help Hartman climb the ladder, a considerable chore with so many other bodies in the way.
“That’s all up to the coaches,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my best to move up any way I can.
“I’m just trying to make all my checks and calls and make sure we’re lined up right and playing the right defense.”
Starting safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis are recovering from surgeries, leaving temporary openings at those positions. Neither player has yet participated in an offseason practice and though the Chiefs haven’t publicly ruled it out, it’s unlikely Berry or Lewis will be in the lineup before offseason work concludes with next week’s three-day mini-camp.
In the meantime, the Chiefs are busy sorting through safety candidates. They’ve taken a look in the starting lineup at a variety of players, including converted cornerback Travis Daniels and another undrafted rookie, Terrance Parks of Florida State.
Hartman hasn’t had a turn with the starters and it’s in the best interests of the Chiefs to get a good look at him in the starting lineup or elsewhere. At 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, he’s one of their biggest defensive backs. Having started for four seasons at Kansas State, he’s also among the most experienced of their rookies.
“A lot of work, a lot of mental work,” Hartman said when asked about the biggest difference between college football and the NFL. “That’s probably the biggest transition. All of a sudden you’re in the playbook so fast. When I first got here, it was so fast it was hard to keep up, hard to think straight. Now I’m getting into it and it’s starting to slow down. It’s a big step. Fortunately, I don’t have to go to school anymore so that gives me more time to spend on football.
“Eric and Kendrick have done a great job helping us out. They give us tips and pointers in between plays and when we come off the sideline they’re helping us out any way they can. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Hartman still has a lot of ground to cover. Two safety spots are taken when Berry and Lewis return, probably in time for the start of training camp in late July.
The Chiefs this week signed veteran Abram Elam, who will probably claim the third safety spot. Among their other candidates are rookie De’Quan Menzie, a fifth-round draft pick, and another player with some NFL experience, Kyle McCarthy.
But Hartman said he has no regrets about joining the Chiefs.
“It definitely presents a nice opportunity because it’s so close to home and so close to my family,” Hartman said. “I’ve got family here in Kansas City and two hours away in Wichita so it’s nice to have that feeling of home and having people close by to talk to.”