Charvarius Ward is the first to admit he needed a breather during the Chiefs’ game at Seattle.
By halftime of his first start against Seahawks in Week 16, Ward was asking to be taken out.
“I told Coach to take me out of the game at halftime because I barely could breathe,” Ward said after Wednesday’s Chiefs minicamp practice.
“They kept me in, told me I couldn’t come out. I stayed in there.”
With that memory fresh in his mind, Ward entered the offseason with the goal of increasing his conditioning. Following the AFC Championship loss, Ward immediately started training, working out multiple times a day.
Ward’s hard work seems to be paying off. During minicamp and OTAs, he’s taken snaps with the first and second team defensive backs.
Joining the Chiefs via trade from Dallas late in the preseason, Ward eventually took over for Orlando Scandrick and started three of the final four games to finish with 26 solo tackles and three passes defended on the year.
It took Ward took a long time to learn the complex defense, but this year, he’s picking up on Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme quickly.
“It’s a lot more communicating, a lot more teaching,” Ward said of working with the new defensive coaches. “It’s a brand new defense, so everybody’s learning right now. They’re more enthusiastic and better teachers.”
Undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State just a year ago, Ward figures to be in a solid spot with the Chiefs entering next month’s training camp.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ward said. “The Chiefs, they gave me an opportunity. The cowboys also gave me an opportunity but the Chiefs, they believed in me more. They traded for me. Coach Andy Reid, general manager Brett Veach, they see a lot in me. They give me the opportunity and I respect them for that. I’m going to prove them right.”
Demarcus Robinson has seen plenty of deep throws from Patrick Mahomes over the last two seasons.
But sometimes, the receiver can’t quite get there.
That happened a couple times during Wednesday’s practice, when persistent gusts of wind helped carry Mahomes’ balls a bit farther than usual.
Robinson and Sammy Watkins, the top two receivers at Chiefs’ minicamp, struggled to get to some of those throws.
“We need days like that, even rainy days,’’ Robinson said. “You’ve just got to go with the circumstances and what’s going on with the weather . . . Any day is tough to keep up with him. He challenges us with all the throws he has.’’
Robinson is constantly working on his connection with Mahomes, and he’s passing on some of his best tips to rookie Mecole Hardman.
“Just run through everything,” Robinson said. “It’s a different level of speed in the NFL than it was in college. We have the best quarterback in the NFL. He can get the ball downfield even when you’re 60 yards downfield, so run through everything if you have a deep route and run full speed through all your routes.”
Front and center
Offensive lineman Jimmy Murray didn’t return to practice on Wednesday after leaving the previous day’s practice in a cart because of a left leg injury.
In his place, seventh round draft pick Nick Allegretti took the second team reps at center. Allegretti was drafted to be a versatile lineman, and has already shown that trait in the offseason. Prior to Murray’s injury, Allegretti had been lining up at guard. While at Illinois, Allegretti started at center five times between his sophomore and junior seasons.
Kahlil McKenzie, once a defensive lineman, also took snaps at center — something he doesn’t usually do.
The defensive had a productive day of practice Wednesday, grabbing interceptions off three of the four quarterbacks.
Two of the picks were courtesy of cornerback Keith Reaser, who’s back with the team after a stint in the American Alliance of Football. He intercepted Chad Henne in 7-on-7 drills before plucking Chase Litton’s pass out of the air.
The final interception came from defensive end Alex Okafor, a free agency addition from New Orleans, as he picked off Mahomes. Okafor grabbed a ball intended for running back Carlos Hyde and ran it to the end zone for a pick-six during non-contact 11-on-11 drills.
Along with the group missing from Tuesday’s practice that included Cam Erving, Travis Kelce and Juan Thornhill, punter Dustin Colquitt also didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice. Entering his 15th season with the team, Colquitt was present at practice, but didn’t get any work in.
Running back Damien Williams, who missed team drills on Tuesday, appeared to be a full participant on Wednesday.