ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Thousands of Chiefs fans chanted Tyreek Hill’s name as he pranced toward the practice field for the first full-squad workout of training camp Saturday, the first time the star wide receiver has practiced with his teammates since the AFC title game.
Hill thumped his chest, signed autographs, high-stepped across one practice field and played to the fans just over a week after the NFL said he would face no punishment from a messy offseason situation.
The two-time All-Pro was suspended by the team during the NFL draft when audio surfaced of his then-fiance, Crystal Espinal, accusing him of hurting their 3-year-old son. But a criminal investigation and subsequent league inquiries failed to find enough evidence to support the claims.
When the NFL announced last week it would not suspend Hill this season, the Chiefs wasted little time in confirming he would report to camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University.
“Looked like he did some good things. He had a couple nice grabs, fast, quick, all of that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He had a couple deep balls that he had to go get and he got them.”
Hill was not available to speak to reporters, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes — who kept hitting him with a series of deep downfield throws — certainly sounded glad to have him back.
“I thought it was good. I thought as a whole, the whole offense was rolling,” said Mahomes, the reigning league MVP. “We were really connecting on a lot of deep balls and intermediate throws. That’s a big part of our offense.”
The overwhelmingly positive reception that Hill received on the practice field of the Division II college came just months after a public outcry to banish him from the league entirely.
On the tape, only parts of which were aired on a local TV station, Hill talked about the way he punishes his son while also making threatening comments toward Espinal. The team immediately suspended Hill from all team activities, including voluntary summer workouts and its mandatory minicamp.
At the time, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said he was “deeply disturbed” by the audio.
The full conversation, secretly recorded in a Dubai airport, aired months later on a local radio station. It put the initial audio in greater context: Hill not only denies hurting his son, he also said that he never hurt Espinal during a 2015 incident in which he pleaded guilty to domestic abuse.
Hill was kicked off the Oklahoma State team following the incident and wound up at West Alabama.
He had largely steered clear of trouble after the Chiefs took a significant risk by taking him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. Hill also became one of the top returners and wide receivers in the NFL, earning a pair of All-Pro nods and three trips to the Pro Bowl while shattering a series of Chiefs records, including yards receiving in a season with 1,479 this past year.
The Chiefs and representatives for Hill were discussing a long-term contract when the audio of Hill first broke. Those talks were shelved and it remains unclear to what extent they have resumed.
“I had a good visit with him earlier this week,” Hunt said Saturday. “It was a very frank conversation, talking to him about his responsibility as he comes back to being a Kansas City Chief.”
Hunt declined to discuss the specifics of the conversation, but the chairman did say he stood by his comments about the initial audio. “I thought there was some inappropriate language in that tape,” he added, “and I’m sure Tyreek wishes he could have it back.”
Also showing up for practice was defensive tackle Chris Jones, who skipped the offseason while angling for a new contract. He’s hoping to parlay his 15 1/2-sack performance last season into a massive payday, but the two sides appear far apart as he enters the last year of his rookie deal.
“Most guys in that position, there’s a lot of outside noise that dictates what they do,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “For him to be here, that says a lot about his character and who he is as a person. … I could tell it’s not necessarily about money. It’s also being back in line with his boys.”
NOTES: FS Armani Watts hurt his ribs during a running test earlier Saturday and was placed on the non-football injury list. … CB Bashaud Breeland cut his thumb early in practice. He was replaced by D’Montre Moore, who made the most of his opportunity by picking off a pass.
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