ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams has biceps that rival Popeye, but the two probably wouldn't be good friends. Williams recently learned he a is allergic to spinach.
That was among the revelations a new offseason regimen revealed as he prepared to enter training camp as the featured back for the first time in his NFL career.
“Even though this is my sixth year, I’ve never had the role of the starter or having to take the bulk of the reps, so I had to do a little more,” Williams said.
He had blood draws to analyze his body’s needs and optimize his nutrition. The lab work revealed the spinach allergy.
“I had to change my eating habits ...,” Williams said when asked how he prepared differently for the 2019 season. “I can’t eat spinach obviously. But it’s cool to learn what you can and can’t eat and what I’ve been eating to where, I’m thinking this is good, but it’s not good for my body type.”
Throughout the offseason, the Chiefs’ offensive staff spoke about Williams as the clear No. 1 running back, but a hamstring injury that cost him most of the first three weeks of training camp changed the conversation.
Now, Chiefs coach Andy Reid talks about using a committee approach to the running back situation — though it remains unclear who else would be part of the committee among top contenders Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson.
“Those are my guys,” Williams said. “Those are the guys in the room every day. Those are the guys I spend the most time with.”
He didn’t mind sitting out Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals during the preseason opener as those guys took turns in the spotlight along with Lee’s Summit native Josh Caldwell, among others.
Williams said he aims to compete every day at practice, so his mindset hasn’t changed even if the conversation about the position has changed.
“That’s what I’m here for,” he said. “That’s the job.”
Damien Williams, who was the first running back out but split first-team reps Monday with Hyde and Darrel Williams, declared that his hamstrings feels “great,” so he should see the field in week two of the preseason at Pittsburgh.
“It feels a lot better, having that time off and having the training staff take care of me and making it a priority for me to get back out here,” Williams said. “I feel great being back out on the field.”
Thornhill receives extensive first-team reps
During training camp, Daniel Sorenson has lined up as the free safety next to Tyrann Mathieu with the Chiefs’ first-string defense most of the time.
That changed Monday as second-round pick Juan Thornhill saw his most extensive first-team reps in the first practice back after a 38-17 win in the preseason opener.
“He’s kind of rolling in and rotating in there, and we’ll keep doing that,” Reid said. “He got some good snaps the other day, so we’ll just keep ’em coming.”
Thornhill didn’t disappoint either, running stride for stride 60 yards downfield with speedster Tyreek Hill and intercepting Patrick Mahomes in the end zone during seven-on-seven work.
“You’ve seen the skill that he has,” Reid said. “It’s just being consistent and working through everything. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get.”
He wasn’t the only player to receive a bump in duties after his preseason performance.
Seventh-round pick Nick Allegretti got the second-string reps at center behind Austin Reiter during Monday’s practice.
Breeland balls out
During the first half Saturday against the Bengals, cornerback Bashaud Breeland appeared to get roasted before flashing some serious recovery speed to get deep and break up a sure touchdown pass deep down the left sideline.
Turns out, Breeland’s play was even better than most assumed. Reid confirmed Monday that a teammate blew the coverage, but Breeland covered his mistake.
“He has that length, and you saw when the coverage got botched in the game — and it wasn’t him — but when the coverage got broken in the game, he was able to rally back just off instincts and make a play,” Reid said.
Breeland’s standout performances continued as practice resumed.
He undercut a pass from Mahomes for an interception during seven-on-seven work then made a spectacular leaping interception, tipping the ball to himself and catching it as he went to the ground, against Mahomes during 11-on-11 drills.
“He’s playing good right now,” Reid said. “I think he’s got a good feel for the defense. He’s always had good instincts, and he’s a tough kid. That’s a good combination to have at corner.”
Neither of the players who left Saturday’s preseason win against the Cincinnati Bengals, WR Davon Grayson (knee) and TE John Lovett (shoulder), participated Monday in practice.
CB D’Montre Wade (knee contusion) also sat out the first training camp practice since the preseason opener.
WR Gehrig Dieter (back spasms) and DT Xavier Williams (back) also sat out again, while DE Alex Okafor (hip) returned — but only briefly as he gets eased back into practice.