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Rookies, Reserves Gaining Rare Camp Opportunity

Posted Aug 1, 2011

There are plenty of practice reps to go around with a number of veterans ineligible to practice

ST. JOESPH, MO – It’s been an odd start to training camp. The roster is supposed to be expanded, yet so many veteran players aren’t permitted to practice. The pads haven’t come on yet, two-a-days are no more and we’re dealing with the most bizarre free agency period in NFL history.

Lost in all of the madness are the beneficiaries – fringe players and rookies.

When the Chiefs kickoff the regular season against Buffalo on September 11th, the first-team offense and defense will look nothing like it has throughout training camp’s opening weekend. Second and third-teamers currently fill out the first unit on each side of the football while the new CBA prohibits a number of projected starters from attending anything other than team meetings.

Wallace Gilberry was one of the latest to join the list of veteran “inactives” Sunday night. Former Chargers LB Brandon Siler added his name to the mix Monday morning after signing a free agent contract with the Chiefs. The pair joins 13 other veterans who’ll have to wait until August 4th to make their on-field debut and the list is growing with each new signing.

Though the aftermath of the NFL lockout is keeping a number of veterans away from practice, it’s also providing an environment of opportunity for rookies and reserves to get extended looks on film – some for better, others for worse

Practice squad players like Bobby Greenwood, Darryl Harris and Pierre Walters are getting loads of reps with first-team units while rookie free agents fill in behind them. Seventh-round pick Shane Bannon has a monopoly on snaps as the only active fullback in camp.

With only 61 of a possible 90 players on the field, there are plenty of reps to be shared.

 “This week is always critical because the more reps that we can get, the better it is,” Harris said. “As far as coaches saying what all we can do, whenever we get an opportunity you just have to make the most of it.”

Harris is definitely one of those players.

A member of the practice squad each of the last two seasons, this is Harris’ second-consecutive camp working with the first-team offense. Last year, he filled in for Brian Waters at left guard before suffering a knee injury midway through camp that ended his preseason.

This year, Harris opened camp working as the first-team center.

“I’ve always been working in the center position, even last year when I came back from injury, but as soon as we got back to camp coach told me I was going back to center and I’ve just got to roll with it, that’s the card I was dealt,” said Harris.

With numbers low, Anthony Toribio is getting all the reps he can handle at nose guard.

This is Toribio’s first camp in Kansas City. He originally came to Kansas City via waiver claim after Green Bay made him a camp casualty in last year’s final cuts.

With the Packers, Toribio was fighting an uphill battle for reps and a roster spot, trying to make in into the rotation at nose tackle behind franchise player Ryan Pickett and former first-round draft pick B.J. Raji. He’d play sparingly for the Chiefs – just over 60 defensive snaps – last season.

“Yes, this is a great opportunity,” Toribio said. “It’s a great opportunity for anybody in this camp man, that’s what training camp is about. You come out here and compete under the heat and best man wins.”

Instead of waiting for reserve reps and receiving limited looks, these players are out on display front and center. For many, receiving first and second-team snaps is foreign territory at the NFL level. It’s a chance to be involved in far more frames of video than ever before.

It’s an opportunity, but there’s also a sense of urgency for many of these players to make a positive impression quickly. The reps won’t be promised when close to 30 veterans can be added to the rotation next week.

“That’s always the mindset because, they’ve given me an opportunity and I’ve just got to make the most of it, Harris said. “Tomorrow’s never promised. I could be gone, you never know.”

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