Gregory may or may not make the regular-season roster, but his presence in the meantime will be welcomed by a team that has likely lost backup Sanders Commings for the season. Commings will have surgery to repair a broken ankle Thursday.
Starting safety Eric Berry left practice early with a sore ankle but his injury isn't serious and he could return to practice as soon as Friday.
Even with Berry, the Chiefs are perilously thin at safety. Husain Abdullah is the other starting safety. The backups are Jerron McMillian, who played two seasons as a backup for the Green Bay Packers, and two developmental players, rookie Daniel Sorensen and Malcolm Bronson.
So a veteran body like Gregory comes along at a good time. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Gregory played six seasons for the Chargers and two for the Patriots. He started in more than half of his team's games in the past three seasons.
To clear roster room for Gregory, the Chiefs waived rookie linebacker Ben Johnson, an undrafted free agent.
Cornerback: There’s little drama on defense, except when it comes to the demotion of Sean Smith to the second team. Smith, one of the Chiefs’ big free-agent signings of last year, is exactly what the Chiefs are looking for in a cornerback. He’s big enough to match up and get physical with opposing receivers. Smith also played well enough as a starter last season. But Marcus Cooper and Ron Parker have been the starters since camp opened. Other than recent comments from defensive coordinator Bob Sutton that Smith wasn’t far from winning his job back, there’s no evidence the Chiefs are planning to promote Smith. Smith moved back into the starting lineup late in Thursday’s practice after Cooper left with a sore hamstring but look for Cooper to regain the spot when he returns to practice.
Place-kicker: Rookie free agent Cairo Santos has the ability to kick in the NFL. He’s only 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, but he has a strong enough leg to handle the job. In choosing between Santos and incumbent Ryan Succop, the Chiefs need to decide how comfortable they would be with a rookie as their kicker. From all appearances, they don’t fear that with this particular rookie. They believe he has the mental toughness to be an NFL kicker. But Succop has experience getting past a slump. He hit all three of his field goal attempts in last year’s playoff game a week after missing the potential game-winning kick in San Diego. That kind of mental toughness is essential for a kicker. Santos’ salary is about $1.5 million less than that of Succop but it’s difficult to put a price tag on Succop’s experience at a pressure-filled position. Both players have kicked well in camp.
- Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry was taken off the practice field in a motorized cart with an ankle injury. The extent of Berry’s injury was still being evaluated but it didn’t appear to be serious. Berry walked over to a medical tent adjacent to the practice field under his own power for an initial examination. He soon walked over to the cart and was taken away from the practice field. He did not return to the field before the practice session ended. The Chiefs are thin at safety behind the starters, Berry and Husain Abdullah. Berry was replaced in the starting lineup by an undrafted rookie, Daniel Sorensen. He normally would have been replaced by Sanders Commings. But Commings had surgery Thursday for a broken ankle. Whether or not Berry returns quickly, the Chiefs need to find a veteran safety. They lost veterans Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps from last year’s roster and failed to replace them with a veteran.
- Veteran cornerback Sean Smith moved back into the starting lineup toward the end of practice, but only because Marcus Cooper was also carted off the field with an injury. Cooper strained a hamstring. The Chiefs are similarly thin at cornerback. They released one starter, Brandon Flowers, during the offseason. Meanwhile, their only cornerback acquisition of consequence was third-round draft pick Phillip Gaines of Rice. Gaines has yet to receive any work with the starters.
- The Chiefs spent an extensive practice period working inside the 20-yard line. One of the defensive highlights happened when Cooper, before his injury, broke up a pass intended for Dwayne Bowe in the end zone. The offense later retaliated with touchdown passes on consecutive plays, the first from Aaron Murray to Richard Gordon and the other from Alex Smith to Kyle Williams. "There were some good things on both sides," coach Andy Reid said. "We kind of traded back and forth."
- The Chiefs are sorting through a large group of wide receivers who appear to have legitimate hopes of making the roster. One backup, A.J. Jenkins, left practice early because of a sore hamstring. Two others, Junior Hemingway and Mark Harrison, did not practice, each because of a sore hamstring. Those absences leave more snaps for young players like Frankie Hammond Jr. and Albert Wilson. "I feel the young guys," Reid said. "We’ll keep playing them. Everybody’s playing out here. We’ll give them as many reps as we can. Everybody’s going to play once we get to the first preseason game. It takes a little time to evaluate it." The Chiefs begin the preseason on Aug. 7 against Cincinnati at Arrowhead Stadium.
- The Chiefs practice again on Friday at 8:15 a.m. CT.
- Quarterback: While Alex Smith is unquestioned as the starter, the Chiefs still have decisions to make regarding the rest of their roster. Chase Daniel’s hold on the backup job appears secure. He gets more practice snaps than any quarterback except Smith and he’s the only other QB with NFL game experience. Among the developmental quarterbacks, Tyler Bray has shown more ability than rookie Aaron Murray. Many of Bray’s throws are big-time impressive, but with him there’s also the occasional what-was-he-thinking mistake. At this point, it would be a surprise if the Chiefs parted ways with any of their quarterbacks, meaning the prediction is that they will keep four or put one on an injured list.Daniel
- Wide receiver: The jockeying for the final one or two roster spots has become interesting. In Frankie Hammond Jr. and Albert Wilson, the Chiefs appear to have two young and promising players. But can they afford to keep both of them? That question will have to be resolved in the preseason. Veteran Kyle Williams is also playing well. He appears to have recovered from last year’s ACL surgery and is the most reliable slot receiver the Chiefs have. He deserves a roster spot. While the Chiefs should be limited in what they expect from starters Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery, they have reason to believe they will get more from their backups, a group that includes Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins.
- Right guard: The Chiefs have been rotating Rishaw Johnson and rookie Zach Fulton on the first team. Fulton is advanced for a sixth-round draft pick. He showed in offseason practice an aptitude for concepts such as combination blocks, and now, with the pads on, has shown enough ability that the Chiefs should be able to trust him with the starting spot. He should win the job if he plays well in preseason games.
LAS VEGAS -- An attorney for former NFL running back Larry Johnson says the player's Las Vegas domestic violence case is now closed after a judge determined he successfully completed community service and counseling requirements.
Attorney Gregory Knapp says he appeared in court on Johnson's behalf Wednesday and provided documents showing that the 34-year-old former Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins star completed his sentence.
Knapp said the athlete volunteered for several nonprofits, including the American Heart Association.
Johnson was arrested in October 2012 at the Bellagio after he was accused of beating and choking his 32-year-old ex-girlfriend.
He was sentenced to probation, 48 hours of community service and six months of counseling after pleading no contest in July 2013 to misdemeanor battery and assault.
Knapp says Johnson lives in Florida.
"Only a couple of times I've missed a play call so that feels good."
As Murray continues to master the play calling, it's obvious his rookie season is going to be spent as a developmental one. Murray is getting fewer snaps than any of the other three quarterbacks in camp. The priorities for the Chiefs at quarterback have been preparing starter Alex Smith and backup Chase Daniel for the regular season. Another developmental quarterback, Tyler Bray, is ahead of Murray in the quarterback rotation at practice.
That was the Chief's plan for Murray from the beginning. Murray doesn't have a big arm, particularly when compared to that of Bray. When he makes plays, they generally come because of good decision-making rather than raw ability.
But Murray has shown enough that the Chiefs should keep him around. They face an interesting decision about how many quarterbacks to keep -- don't sleep on the possibility they could keep all four -- and which one to set free if they do make a move at the position.
More likely the Chiefs will keep Murray around, on an injured list if not the bottom of their depth chart, when the regular season begins. In the meantime, Murray will get his first chance under game conditions on Aug. 7, when the Chiefs begin their preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I feel ready," Murray said. "I feel very comfortable with the playbook. I'm excited. First time I get into Arrowhead Stadium and play and first NFL experience. I'm looking forward to it."
- Rookie De'Anthony Thomas had perhaps his best practice at training camp so far. Thomas lines up as a running back or a receiver and made several big plays, the best being when he caught a deep fade from quarterback Alex Smith for a touchdown. That Thomas is having an impact after a week of training camp is no surprise. He missed a lot of offseason practice because of NFL rules prohibiting rookies from participating if their college, as Oregon was, was still in session. He had daily Skype sessions with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to go over what he was missing in Kansas City, but he was still behind in learning the offense and is only now catching up. The Chiefs are also a little late in figuring out what they can and can’t do with Thomas.
- Safety Sanders Commings, who had a strained foot, practiced for the first time at training camp but didn’t finish the session. He was in the unfortunate position of having to tackle Jamaal Charles in the open field. Charles put a move on Commings that sent him crumpling to the ground. Commings was soon carted off to the locker room with a right ankle injury. The Chiefs were hopeful Commings could play as an extra defensive back in passing situations, but a second injury is ruining those chances.
- The backups got the better of the starters in an interesting goal-line drill. The starting defense allowed four touchdowns on four plays to the No. 2 offense. One of the touchdowns was a Tyler Bray pass to an uncovered Richard Gordon in the end zone. The starting offense scored just once in four plays against the backup defense, the score coming on a Knile Davis run. The offense should have had another touchdown, but tight end Demetrius Harris inexplicably wasn’t looking for Smith’s pass.
- Undrafted rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson is making a strong bid for a roster spot. Wilson received several snaps with the first team, a sign the Chiefs are encouraged about what they have in him. Wilson has been utilized both in the slot and as an outside receiver and is not only fast but has shown the ability to elude coverage. “He just looks so smooth with his routes, and he’s able to really create some space and make some friendly throwing (lanes) for us," quarterback Aaron Murray said.
- Things remain tough for cornerback Sean Smith. A former starter, Smith is now running second team. Then reserve wide receiver Mark Harrison beat him to a jump-ball catch. After making the catch, Harrison taunted Smith by flipping the ball at him.
1. Lingering injuries. Left tackle Eric Fisher and tight end Travis Kelce are important players for the Chiefs. They are counting on Fisher to protect quarterback Alex Smith's blind side and Kelce to energize their passing game. Neither has been a consistent participant in practice after having surgery that caused each to miss at least the team portion of offseason practice. Fisher’s surgically repaired shoulder appears to be bothering him even when he’s in the lineup. Kelce’s balky knee caused him to sit out a day of practice. These ominous developments will threaten the Chiefs’ season if they continue.
3. Depth at offensive line. The Chiefs don’t have much experience among their starting linemen. Center Rodney Hudson, at 25 and heading into his fourth NFL season, is the veteran. But four of the starters were drafted in the third round or higher. The fifth starter could be rookie Zach Fulton at right guard, and he looks advanced for a sixth-round draft pick. So the line should be fine if the Chiefs can stay healthy. But trouble looms if the Chiefs have injuries here. Just how desperate their search for a third tackle is came to light when starting right tackle Donald Stephenson injured his ankle. Things don’t look much better at the interior positions.
The Chiefs hold a series of five one-year options to renew the contract but have yet to decide on a location for their camp in 2015.
“I wouldn’t say at this point that we’re leaning any way,’’ Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “We’ve enjoyed our time here in St. Joe. The university has done a great job for us. Coach [Andy] Reid really likes the setup we have here.
“It’s a decision we’ll make after training camp. We’ll sit down as an organization and visit with the university and make a decision before the end of the year.”
By all appearances the Chiefs are satisfied having their camp at Missouri Western, which is 64 miles from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Reid has publicly praised the school’s facilities, which include an indoor 100-yard artificial turf practice field.
St. Joseph is close enough to Kansas City that many Chiefs fans can easily attend practice. Saturday morning’s session began at 8:15 a.m. but still attracted a crowd the Chiefs estimated at 6,200 fans. The Chiefs held an appreciation for their season-ticket holders on Sunday.
“I don’t think being an hour from Kansas City hurts the audience at all,’’ Hunt said.
But if a decision to keep camp in St. Joseph is such a no-brainer, why are Hunt and the Chiefs hesitating? The Chiefs won’t find better facilities closer to Kansas City. That includes their own practice facility.
That’s likely the best option for the Chiefs if they are to move camp. Their practice facility couldn’t handle a crowd the size of Saturday’s without some modification but the Chiefs could hold some practices in Arrowhead Stadium.
"It’s not something we’ve discussed at this point,’’ Hunt said about bringing camp to Kansas City. “I don’t think we’d need to make a lot of changes. That facility works very well for us in the spring [and] during the season. The one thing that we don’t have at Arrowhead and the training complex is a hotel or dorm rooms. That’s a big advantage of the university setup.’’
Even though the Chiefs haven’t committed to St. Joseph beyond this year, look for them to stay at least one more year. Reid’s wishes will weigh heavily.
“The football side is most important,’’ Hunt said. “Does the coaching staff feel like they’re able to have an effective camp, that they’re able to get done what they need to get done here? There are a lot of things that go into that, a lot of small details. Andy I think is well-known for his attention to small details and the university does a nice job with those small details.
“I think there are a lot of positives by staying here.''
The Chiefs have finished five full-squad camp practices. Here, I'll look at three pleasant developments from the first week of camp. Later today, I'll list some of the top disappointments.
2) Young wide receivers are playing well. The Chiefs may have their best crop of young wide receivers in years. Frankie Hammond Jr. is having a strong camp and could develop into a contributor sometime down the road if not this year. He's fast, is catching everything headed his way and has turned in a number of big plays. Albert Wilson, Jerrell Jackson, Darryl Surgent and Mark Harrison are other players who have shown enough ability that the Chiefs should at least keep them around as developmental players. Veteran Kyle Williams is also having a nice camp and looks capable of helping as a slot receiver. The Chiefs may get no more from starting wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery than they did last season but their backup wide receivers could have a bigger impact.
3) Strong on special teams again. The Chiefs won in the kicking game in many of their games last season and look poised to do so again. In rookie De'Anthony Thomas, the Chiefs have a skilled punt returner to replace the departed Dexter McCluster. Thomas needs work on catching the ball and making good judgments but that will come in time. He's fast and capable of making tacklers miss. Knile Davis should be better as a kickoff returner than he was last season. Dustin Colquitt is one of the league's top punters. Judging by results in camp, the Chiefs can't go wrong in choosing at kicker between veteran Ryan Succop and rookie Cairo Santos.