Patrick Mahomes calls this new Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver ‘super-talented’

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Chiefs wide receiver Antonio Callaway snared a pass over the middle from quarterback Patrick Mahomes during an early portion of Thursday morning’s training camp practice at Missouri Western.

On the surface, not too exciting. That’s what Callaway is supposed to do.

It’s what happened after Callaway hauled in the reception that commanded attention.

The superstar quarterback was among the first to greet Callaway with a pat on the helmet after the wideout made his way back across the line of scrimmage. Tight end Travis Kelce gave Callaway an enthusiastic fist-bump, then talked while the receiver listened.

All par for the course for Callaway, who is a willing sponge for teammates willing to impart knowledge that could help him learn the Chiefs’ playbook.

“It’s happening every day,” Callaway said after Friday’s practice. “I mean, I’m learning something new every day. I mean, just to have guys like that coming up, helping me and giving me tips to take my game to the next level is just a blessing, and I appreciate that.”

Perhaps unknown to more casual observers, Callaway has impressed the Chiefs enough that they signed him to a reserve/futures contract on Jan. 13, 2021. General manager Brett Veach even mentioned him by name a week before the NFL Draft.

“We have Antonio Callaway coming in,” Veach said on April 23. “We’re excited about him.”

With organized team activities, minicamp and three days of training camp now in the books, Mahomes likes what he’s seeing from the 24-year-old originally drafted in the fourth round out of Florida by the Cleveland Browns in 2018.

“The way he’s been able to come in and execute is the biggest thing,” Mahomes said Friday. “Obviously, he’s super-talented. He can make the plays, but he’s been able to jump right in.

“With our playbook, you know Coach (Andy) Reid isn’t slowing down, and he’s been able to execute and make big plays, making contested catches. Someone that has that speed and can make contested catches is a great guy to have on the field.”

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Callaway totaled 89 catches for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns at Florida. He tallied 43 catches for 586 yards and five touchdowns during his rookie season with the Browns, but then he was found to have violated the league’s substance-abuse policy before the 2019 season.

The Browns released him at midseason, but he still had to serve a three-game suspension when he joined the Miami Dolphins in 2020. His stay in Miami was brief.

Today, he said he knows what he would tell a younger version of himself if he could.

“Be yourself, do the right thing,” he said reflectively. “You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong.

“There’s freedom of action, but not freedom of consequences, like every action has a consequence, whether it’s good or bad. Just do the right thing all the time, even when nobody is looking.”

So far, so good for Callaway, who has rotated repetitions with the first- and second-team units.

There’s still plenty of training camp to go, plus three preseason games, so it remains to be seen whether Callaway can crack the Chiefs’ initial 53-player roster. But he’s thankful to have the opportunity.

“It’s a blessing to end up here in this program,” he said. “The coaches are great, the players are great, the staff is great. It’s one big family here ... This is the perfect spot.”

PARTICIPATION REPORT

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (hamstring) was on the field with his helmet during the early portion of practice Friday but didn’t appear to do much. He originally tweaked his hamstring during Wednesday’s practice and worked with trainers in the rehabilitation area Thursday.

Long-snapper James Winchester, whom the Chiefs placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, returned to the practice field, a sign that he’d cleared the NFL’s mandatory COVID safety protocols.

Tight end Travis Kelce (back, hip tightness), offensive lineman Kyle Long (knee), safety Armani Watts (foot), tight end Nick Keizer (back spasms) and defensive end Malik Herring (knee) did not practice.

Kelce walked onto the field without his helmet almost an hour into the morning practice. He spent most of the time on the sidelines talking to Mahomes and other teammates.

Running back Darwin Thompson remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list and was not present for Friday’s practice.

OBSERVATIONS

  • The Chiefs’ offensive line maintained the same rotation, for the most part, that it showed Thursday: left tackle Orlando Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, rookie center Creed Humphrey, rookie right guard Trey Smith and right tackle Mike Remmers. Lucas Niang saw limited action at right tackle in relief of Remmers.

  • With Hitchens taking it easy, the Chiefs utilized Ben Niemann at middle linebacker and Willie Gay Jr. and rookie Nick Bolton as outside linebackers. Niemann and Gay each broke up passes during team drills.

  • Safety Juan Thornhill made a nice diving interception of a Mahomes pass near the right sideline.

  • Mahomes was being Mahomes, with a slick sidearm throw to wide receiver Byron Pringle. Mahomes scrambled to his right before spotting Pringle between two defenders.

  • The long ball was on display late in practice between Mahomes and wide receiver Mecole Hardman. At the snap, Hardman took off down the field and split the safety coverage between Thornhill and Sorensen. Mahomes’ pass arrived just Hardman broke free, and the play resulted in a 55-yard touchdown.

  • Harrison Butker went 6 of 7 on field-goal attempts during a special teams kicking session. After nailing various kicks from 30 to 55 yards out, his lone miss came at the end on a 65-yard attempt.

PLAY OF THE DAY

Cornerback Charvarius Ward got the crowd going with an exceptional defensive play during team drills.

Mahomes unleashed a rainbow-like deep pass in Hardman’s direction along the right sideline. Hardman streaked down the field and appeared to have a step on Ward, but the cornerback made up ground in time to reach out and knock the ball away at the last possible second.

Ward’s effort was rewarded by resounding cheers from fans in attendance.