KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hours before the Kansas City Chiefs boarded a flight to Oakland on Saturday, coach Andy Reid stood in front of the entire squad — 50-plus men — in a meeting room at the team’s practice facility and delivered a message.
The Chiefs always meet as a team on the Saturday before a Sunday game, often so Reid can deliver a few final points. However, the circumstances the team found itself in at the time — smack dab at the epicenter of controversy surrounding its ex-star running back, Kareem Hunt — was far from ordinary, so much so that a player felt compelled to address the team as well.
That player was quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The day before, TMZ posted a damning video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel hallway. The Chiefs, publicly citing Hunt’s lack of honesty about the matter in their dealings with them, promptly released the Pro Bowler.
“The elephant in the room,” offensive lineman Cam Erving noted.
As several other players relayed to Yahoo Sports on Wednesday, Reid and Mahomes went out of their way to address the Hunt situation before they boarded their flight to face the woeful Raiders.
First Reid went.
“We have to move on — we have to,” outside linebacker Dee Ford recalled Reid saying. “Everything we’ve built to this point now, we can’t just lose that. The decision’s made — we’ve just got to move on.”
Mahomes spoke once Reid was done.
“Starting through Friday [afternoon] until Saturday morning, we’ve had everyone else’s [opinion] brought on us [about this],” center Mitch Morse recalled Mahomes saying. “But the only opinions that matter are the opinions in this locker room.”
Then, Mahomes — who is 23 and the youngest offensive starter — brought it home by reminding everyone that to reach their Super Bowl dreams, they’ll have to thrive under the microscope the rest of the way.
“All eyes are going to be on us,” Morse recalled Mahomes saying. “But that shouldn’t change how we’re going to handle our business and how we keep going about that.”
“He said, ‘This is about us,’” backup quarterback Chad Henne recalled. “We want to support Kareem as a person, but when it comes to this building, this is about football and what we need to accomplish to get to where we need to go.”
The meeting was a quick one, players said, but it still left an impact on Mahomes’ teammates, who weren’t oblivious to the fact that it was the kind of thing an alpha on a football team would do.
“It was definitely a moment,” Morse told Yahoo Sports. “it was just another peg on his leadership resume that he’s just absolutely blown out of the water this year.
“Not only is he an exceptional football player, but the way he carries himself in the locker room is just special. And I think when you bring that kind of confidence and intensity at the same time, it’s infectious.”
Especially when it’s backed up with actions, as Mahomes tends to do. The Chiefs went out and beat the Raiders 40-33 to improve to 10-2, and Mahomes, an MVP candidate, led the way by completing 23 of 38 passes for 295 yards, four touchdown and zero interceptions.
Plus, on a day when the Chiefs’ rushing offense lacked dynamism without Hunt, who entered the game second in the NFL in missed tackles forced, Mahomes led the team in rushing with 52 yards.
Henne, an 11-year veteran, said Mahomes is “light years ahead of a lot of young guys” in the leadership department.
“I think he expresses himself and he wants to be that guy and he’s not afraid to step up when something needs to be said,” Henne said. “That’s great for a young guy to be like that, and I think a lot of people respect him for that.”
Mahomes stepped up, but the Chiefs’ 31st-ranked defense — which surrendered 442 yards to the league’s 22nd-ranked offense — didn’t. Nevertheless, Ford says the message both men expressed Saturday hit home.
“Although we didn’t play as good as we wanted to in defense, there were things [that were issues] that all year long, we’ve been trying to fix,” Ford said. “But as far as the team, I still feel like we still responded well to that. As far as players go, we didn’t really talk about Kareem. We really didn’t.”
That doesn’t mean they don’t want the best for Hunt. Several players expressed sadness for the situation Hunt now finds himself in, which is out of a job and facing a lengthy suspension.
“We lose no love for the guy, we wish him the best,” Erving said.
Football goes on, and the Chiefs are pressing toward their goals. And everything their leaders — from the coaching staff to the newly anointed, alpha dog quarterback — are doing and saying are related to that unified goal, one that everyone is getting behind as the Hunt drama continues to unfold.
“It’s super sad,” Ford said of Hunt. “For him, personally, that’s what we’re worried about … for him, personally. But we have to move on. We have to.”
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