Patrick Mahomes: We respect Chris Jones' decision, it doesn't hurt his relationship with us

When Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones elected to hold out from training camp, quarterback Patrick Mahomes figured he would be back in the building by now.

Mahomes said as much during his Wednesday press conference.

But now Jones, who is seeking a new contract, has said that he might not report until Week Eight.

Still, Mahomes said on Wednesday that he's "not necessarily" anticipating starting the regular season without the star defensive lineman.

"I know that stuff — contract stuff — is hard to talk about because everybody wants to make money for their entire family and everything like that," Mahomes said. "But I know how much Chris loves the Chiefs. He loves being a part of this organization. So I just try to stay out of it and tell Chris that I love him and that whenever he does come back, he’ll be welcomed with open arms.

"We know that he’s preparing himself so that whenever he does come back, he’ll be that dominant player that he always has been."

With the Chiefs kicking off the 2023 season two weeks from Thursday against the Lions, Mahomes noted that Jones' absence is just part of the contract negotiating process.

"I’m not looking down on him for anything like that," Mahomes said. "He has stuff that he's trying to get done that he feels he needs to get done right now. So, I respect his decision. And whenever he gets back, like I said, we’ll welcome him with open arms. He’s a vital part of this organization and I'm glad he’s on my team."

While head coach Andy Reid said on Wednesday that there hasn't been communication between Jones and the organization, Mahomes has kept in touch with Jones himself.

"He’s in good spirits," Mahomes said. "It’s a hard time for all players, I think, whenever this stuff comes up — because you want to play, you want to be out there. But at the same time, you want to take care of your family. So it’s finding that right spot and where you think you need to be at that time.

"It doesn’t hurt his relationship with any of us. We respect his decision. But at the same time, whenever he comes back, we’ll welcome him with open arms and know that he’s going to be a pivotal teammate to help us try and make a run at the Super Bowl again."

Jones is coming off arguably the best year of his career. In 17 games, he recorded 15.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, and 29 quarterback hits while playing 80 percent of Kansas City's defensive snaps. He then recorded another 2.0 sacks, three tackles for loss, and six QB hits in three postseason games as the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII.