Yes, over the 19 years in River Falls, Chiefs players ventured into the Minneapolis/St. Paul area or the historic Saint Croix River town of Hudson, WI on more than one occasion. But outside of the occasional day-off or periodic night that was free of meetings, the Chiefs were in football isolation.
By moving their summer home to St. Joseph, MO the Chiefs are only seeing a population increase of about 62,000 residents. But in terms of fanfare, the scenery is going to be a drastic change from that of America’s Cheese Capital (and those cheese curds were delicious).
With camp just over an hour from Kansas City, most of the players arrived in their own vehicles. Previously, the team flew into Minneapolis, chartered a bus to River Falls and checked out bicycles as the primary mode of transportation. In short, off-site access is much easier here than it was there.
In addition to personal vehicles, players will also be residing closer to friends, family members and, of course, fans.
“There’s a chance for thousands of fans here daily,” G Brain Waters said. “That’s something that we never had to experience before. And it’s a fact that you’re closer to home.”
Most of the players don’t think that the increase in potential distraction will present anything too serious to deal with, but nearly all of them recognize that new, minor distractions will be present.
Part of the deflection process will be taken care of for them, with schedules that sometimes don’t see more than a few minutes outside of the cafeteria, practice field, training facility or meeting room from sunrise to sundown.
There’s also the locker room presence of established and respected winners like
“I know that Coach Haley is holding us to a high standard,” QB
A training camp that’s closer to home doesn’t necessarily present an environment any more distracting than what players deal with on a daily basis during the regular season or in the off-season. During those times, almost anything that could be pointed to as a potential distraction while in St. Joe is probably even more prevalent in Kansas City.
The difference is that this year’s training camp setting is something both new and unfamiliar.
“There are things that guys are going to have to get used to,” Waters said.
Of the new experiences that wait, some offer nothing but positives – such as fan enthusiasm.
There were plenty of passionate Chiefs fans that showed up for training camp practices in River Falls over recent years, but the environment was more intimate than it was rowdy. Outside of Family Fun Night, attendance never seemed to top out at more than a couple hundred fans at each practice.
This year, things are expected to be different.
Players will feed off of the presence of fans at practice and those 90-degree days won’t seem quite as hot. Players will want to make great plays not only for their future in the league, but for the satisfaction of fans the fans in attendance as well.
St. Joseph will offer a practice atmosphere that many of these players have never experienced before, but it works both ways.
If a player makes a great play, they’ll hear the applause. But if they drop one too many passes or get beat one too many times in coverage, then they likely hear the jeers as well.
Training camp is training camp. The major difference this year is the fans.
A new chapter in franchise history opens today, and it’s one that should be a positive move for both the Chiefs and its fan base. But there’s no doubt that players will have some adjustments to make in the process.