Mitch Morse would have been hard-pressed to find a better opportunity.
Start with the fact that the rookie offensive lineman was drafted by the Chiefs, just down the road from where he played in college at Missouri. Throw in the fact that he was picked well before most experts anticipated — and what that meant for his first contract.
Then consider this: The Chiefs watched their starting center sign with the Oakland Raiders in free agency, leaving a gaping void in the middle of their offensive line.
Suddenly, the second-round draft pick could be counted on by a playoff contender.
Talk about some heady stuff for Morse, who a year ago was finishing up classes in hospitality management and preparing for his final season with the Tigers.
"I'm feeling really fortunate, man. It's the most blessed in my life I ever felt," Morse said. "I get to stay close to home, my whole dad's side — my dad was born in Kansas City. I had no freaking idea (the Chiefs would draft him) but I was really fortunate."
Morse played several positions along the offensive line in college, but his physical tools lend themselves to playing on the interior. That's why coach Andy Reid moved him between guard and center during the Chiefs' three-day rookie minicamp, which wrapped up Monday.
The only other center with much of a shot at making the team is Eric Kush, a former sixth-round draft pick. The Chiefs are high on Kush, but a little competition never hurt.
"I thought Mitch did pretty well," Reid said. "Most of his work was at center but he had a chance to play guard. He seems to be handling it. He seems to be doing pretty well."
Morse wasn't sure that he would get a look at center until he arrived in Kansas City. But as soon as Reid filled him in on the plan, Morse got right to work with his snapping. Playing his QB was 6-foot-5, 303-pound offensive tackle Charles Sweeton, who was in town trying to catch Reid's eye and happened to be Morse's roommate during the minicamp.
The two big fellas — Morse is 6-6, 305 pounds — spent time rehearsing the quarterback-center exchange in their modest room at Chase Suite hotel in suburban Kansas City.
"A few of us guys came in a little earlier, got acclimated with the team, the environment, how things go around here," Morse said. "It's good, the learning process. The playbook is a challenge, but it's something you have to learn. You have to make it up as fast as possible."
Morse is hardly the only rookie who could earn a starting job.
First-round draft pick Marcus Peters finally got back to practice after getting kicked off his team at Washington last season. The cornerback made some impressive plays during the light workouts, potentially the first step in earning the job opposite Sean Smith.
Wide receiver Chris Conley, one of the Chiefs' third-round picks, could join free-agent signing Jeremy Maclin in the starting lineup. Ramik Wilson was a fourth-round pick out of Georgia who could earn time alongside Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker.
In other words, there was more at stake than usual during the rookie minicamp.
"Initially, when you look at the totality of it, it can be overwhelming," Conley said. "It's something you have to break down into smaller pieces. When you break it down into smaller pieces, you look at personnel groupings and the way you put these plays together — it's similar to some of the stuff we ran in college. You just have to let it marinate on a couple concepts."
The marinating can resume for a while. The Chiefs are not back on the field until the rest of the squad reports in a couple weeks for organized team activities, which are optional.
Of course, those rookies trying to win a job wouldn't be anywhere else.
"Football is our job, our school, our work," Conley said. "We spend our whole day here, spend time away from here in our books. you have to put in the time and effort to learn it."
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