Chiefs land at Missouri Western with camp future in question

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — First came the sirens of the police escort, then came the guttural roar of the engine, as Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman arrived at training camp Wednesday in a copy of Clint Bowyer’s stock car.

It could be the last time Sherman pulls off one of his arrival stunts at Missouri Western.

The Chiefs are among a rapidly thinning number of franchises that leave the comforts of their own practice facility for camp, instead moving into the Spartan dorm rooms of the Division II college about an hour’s drive north of Kansas City. But the contract with the school ends after this year, as does an agreement that bounds the Chiefs to holding camp in Missouri for a 10-year stretch.

That leaves the future of their training camp up in the air.

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“We looked at all the options, we’ve looked at moving back to our facility, but we like this,” team president Mark Donovan said. “We’ve had a great relationship. It’s been 10 years. I think everybody knows this is the last year of our agreement. At the end of camp we’ll sit down and talk about what went well, what went wrong — for both sides — and look at what we’ll do moving forward.”

The Chiefs have had a number of camp homes over the years, including stints at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, and SMU in Dallas when the team was still the Texans. From 1963 through the 1990 season, the team was based at William Jewell College just north of Kansas City.

In 1991, the club followed a trend of escaping the uncomfortable heat of early August by heading to River Falls, Wisconsin, and its relationship with UW-River Falls lasted nearly two decades.

But the desire to bring training camp closer to home grew, and the Chiefs reached an agreement with Missouri Western to host their practices in 2010. And ever since, thousands of football fans have made a short drive up Interstate 29 to St. Joseph to bask in the morning sun, catch footballs during field-goal drills, and seek autographs along the metal railing at the base of the hill.

“We look forward to this opportunity of being up here in St. Joe and the great hospitality that they give us here,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has preferred going away for camp ever since he was the coach in Philadelphia. “It’s phenomenal from the fields, to the food to the dorms.”

There are also drawbacks. The team must pack almost its entire operation for the roughly three weeks spent in St. Joseph. The in-house training and medical facilities are not available. And while there are undeniable benefits when it comes to camaraderie and team-building exercises, it also means even more time away from family for players, coaches and staff.

That is why the Chiefs are at least open to the idea of moving elsewhere in the future.

“Somebody would have to create a similar environment. They’re out there and they have expressed interest,” said Donovan, who declined to discuss who those parties might be. “It’s part of my job to take all the info in, do the due diligence. My dad was a really big boxing fan and he always told me, ‘You have to beat the champ. You can’t tie the champ.’ So someone would have to overwhelm us.”

That remains a distinct possibility, though, because the Chiefs have never been a hotter ticket or more intriguing story. The emergence of quarterback Patrick Mahomes promises to make them a Super Bowl contender far into the future, driving up interest in a team that was once an after-thought.

In fact, Donovan expects attendance at training camp to shatter all records this year.

There were even a couple dozen fans in the parking lots Friday trying to snag an autograph from Sherman and the rest of the veterans as they checked in for camp. The big fullback has made a habit of arriving in outlandish ways, and he trumped them all by dressing in a custom fire suit and using Kansas native Clint Bowyer’s show car — a copy of the No. 14 he drives in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The rest of the veterans were also expected to join the team Friday, including wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who was cleared to return following an offseason domestic violence investigation.

The first full-squad practice, which is open to fans, is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. And the big question is whether defensive tackle Chris Jones, coming off a 15 1/2-sack season, will arrive on time after skipping the entire offseason while demanding a long-term contract.

Jones must report by early August or he does not earn an accrued NFL season.

“With Chris, we’ll know more,” Reid said earlier this week. “Our people have talked with Chris’ people and there’s been communication there and so we’ll just see whether he’s here or not here. We obviously want him here and he probably wants to be here too. We’ll see how all of that works out.”

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