On a day where The NFL Network talking heads were falling all over themselves in praise for 4,000 Cleveland fans showing up to see Johnny Manziel at the Browns training camp, more than 6,200 Kansas City Chiefs fans showed up to Chiefs camp Saturday at Missouri Western State University, setting an attendance record in the process.
The fans set an attendance record for the Chiefs at Missouri Western, their training camp home for the last five years. Head coach Andy Reid acknowledged the fan support and explained the importance to the players when that many fans come out to simply watch practice.
“Listen, the fans were unbelievable,” Reid told reporters afterwards. “We appreciate them (fans) and they kind of push you through that first day in pads when you get a little tired … those last couple of periods, those fans get you going and you roll, so we appreciate that.”
Granted, part of the reason for the large crowd was that Saturday was the Annual Family Fun Day at camp, but 6,200 people showing up to watch a regular practice – not a scrimmage or a practice against another team – is impressive nonetheless.
The Chiefs will be making a decision about keeping training camp up in St. Joe after this season ends, so setting attendance records certainly doesn’t make it easier on Chiefs owner Clark Hunt to move camp back to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or to somewhere else.
The Chiefs are in the final year of their initial five-year agreement with Missouri Western and have one-year options for the next five years. They trained at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls during 1991-2009 before bringing camp back to Missouri.
“When we were in River Falls, we had a lot of fans make the trip, but I don’t think we ever had 6,200 fans out,” said Hunt. “100 percent of [the fans here] are Chiefs fans cheering the guys on. I think you heard Andy say how much he appreciates the fans and the lift that they give players when they’re here and the guys are out there practicing so that’s all a very big positive.”
Sadly, not all the news was positive Saturday. Fan favorite, tight end Sean McGrath, has decided to retire for personal reasons according to Reid.
“McGrath is gonna retire, that's what we've been told by him,” Reid told the media Saturday. “I wish him the best. He's a good kid. It's a personal decision he made.”
McGrath, 26, a third-year pro out of Henderson State College, was picked up as a free agent last year by Kansas City as training camp fodder or maybe a special teams player at best. However, injuries to starters Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano pressed him into service as a starter. He ended up catching 26 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the “Duck Dynasty”-style beard he sported underneath his chin strap that made him a hit with fans.
McGrath’s retirement means that the back-up tight end job belongs to pre-season OTA star, Demetrius Harris.
The Chiefs will continue training camp Sunday with an 8:15 a.m. practice.
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