Chiefs training camp notebook: Juan Thornhill takes the lead after Tyrann Mathieu leaves

In late July, during his first press conference at the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp in St. Joseph, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was asked about the leadership ability that free agent signee Justin Reid brought. in his defence.

The team decided to part ways with their former leader, Tyrann Mathieu, allowing him to sign with the New Orleans Saints while moving on from Reid as their top safety. But Spagnuolo wouldn’t discuss Reid’s leadership, deciding instead to bring up a returning safety.

“Justin is very similar [to Mahieu]”, Spagnuolo said. “I’m not sure right now because [he hasn’t] been in the system he is where Tyrann was. I’m not sure anyone is going to go to that particular place. But one guy who has stepped up is Juan Thornhill. I’m talking here from a communications and show management perspective. He kind of took it upon himself, which is what Juan should be doing right now in his fourth year.”

The Chiefs selected Thornhill from Virginia with the No. 63 pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie year and the next two seasons watching Mathieu – both on the court beside him and in outside in meeting rooms and cinemas.

“I think he learned a lot from Ty, so that helped him,” Reid said. “He took on that leadership role there. He’s a bright kid. Very, very smart and he plays hard. I think he’s stepped up his game. He’s one of those guys who made I’m curious to see how he does once we play the real game.

Hearing about the executives’ statements, Thornhill explained that he hadn’t changed much.

“I don’t really feel like I did anything different, just be more vocal with the guys,” Thornhill said Saturday. “Guys come and ask me questions, and they rely on me to give them the right answer if they don’t have the right answer, so that’s the only thing I did: I just tried to ‘to be a leader. Led for example, and if they have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.’

That attitude helps, especially because the club drafted safety Bryan Cook in the second round of this year’s draft.

“He’s a hell of a guy,” Thornhill said of Cook. “Funny guy, I see him as my little brother. I watched a lot of clips of him in Cincinnati – and I can tell you right now, he’s going to be a hitter, that’s for sure.”

Thornhill said Cook spends most of his time off the field in training camp with first-round cornerback Trent McDuffie.

“They hang out all the time – just like when me and (Rashad) Fenton came along, we were basically best friends at the same time, because they’re in the same class,” he said. “With them being together all the time, it’s going to make them better. They study together, they play together and it just builds chemistry. When you see them both together, me and Justin Reid are the coolest guys. old in there, and they’re coming with us? It’s great. That’s how you build the best chemistry on the pitch.”

He’s proud of what he’s seen of the duo in the first two weeks of camp.

“I was a rookie at one point,” Thornhill said. “I know it takes time to understand this playbook because defending Spags is no joke. I think the guys are doing a hell of a job. It shows they are studying. They are winning a lot plays on the ball. They don’t make a lot of mistakes on the pitch and that’s the main thing. They play with confidence. I like this group a lot and I’m just excited for them.”

Thornhill made some off-season waves in mid-June when he declared 2022 to be an All-Pro season. Being named All-Pro is a lot harder than making a Pro Bowl roster. While Pro Bowl recognition is partly based on fan voting, first- and second-team All-Pros are elected by 50 of the top football journalists across the country.

Asked about his self-confidence on Saturday, he did not shrink from his proclamation.

“There are a lot of them,” Thornhill began. “I feel like last year I just wasn’t as confident in my abilities because of the fact that I was struggling with the knee, so I would say the knee is healthier, I have more mental clarity. I feel better all around. I just feel like I’m back to myself and I’m able to have this All-Pro season. So I’m definitely here to back everything up. I said, and I don’t take it back.

Thornhill had a stellar rookie season in 2019, one that took him to the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) rookie team. Unfortunately, his year ended in Week 17 when he tore his ACL in the final game of the regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Sometimes it takes players years to recover from such injuries, and that seems to have been the case for the fourth-year safety.

“I feel better today than two months ago, so I’m getting better and better every week,” he said. “I can definitely say there’s a huge difference. Last year I was still thinking about it. I still had pain in my knee, and now I’m playing football without pain. I don’t even think about it. , which allows me to make more games. If I read concepts instead of thinking about my knee, I will make more games naturally, so I feel much better for sure.

Thornhill has moved well to St. Joseph, and his self-confidence doesn’t stop there. He likes what Reid, McDuffie, Cook, Fenton and some of the other young defensive backs – such as fourth-rounder Joshua Williams and seventh-rounder Jaylen Watson – bring to the table.

“The sky’s not the limit. We can get past that. I feel like we have a really good safety group. The guys can make plays on the ball and we’ve shown that every week. guys can tackle, they’re physical and like I said before, we’re going to be one of the most feared defensive units in the NFL.”

Spoken like a true leader.


You can find Arrowhead Pride’s senior analyst Ron Kopp’s full observations during Saturday’s practice here.

Post-workout chat

press conferences

If you don’t see the above integration (Apple iTunes), Click here. Press conferences are also available on Spotify.

injury report

  • Did not train (due to injury): CB Rashad Fenton (shoulder), OL Lucas Niang (knee), TE Jody Fortson (quad), WR Gary Jennings (concussion), DT Taylor Stallworth (knee)
  • Leaving early: Fontaine WR Daurice (finger)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled everything Saturday tweets here. here is tweet of the day:

Mustache Travis is return.

quote of the day

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman on punting returns this season: “I don’t mind being back there at all, and if I need to be back there, I will. But I think (Dave) Toub looks at it like, for example, if I shop online and it’s like you have Prime and Amazon – it’s two different things, honesty. Prime is nonsense. I think I’m more like a Prime option. Get there faster, I think I’m already there When you get into the league, Amazon – it might take a little longer to get there.

And after?

The Chiefs return to the training ground on Sunday (Day 10) for another padded practice. Practice begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead time. Here is the complete program. The entire squad will be available to sign autographs after practice as offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy addresses the media on the podium. It is also the day of family fun.

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