Of all the eyes on Chiefs wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant over the first week and a half of training camp, none processed the scene more deeply than Chris Conley.
Until Monday, a knee strain had kept Conley, the team’s promising third-round selection from Georgia, on the sideline as a more-than-interested observer. Conley was lasered in, detailing how the veterans ran deep routes and made contested catches.
Conley was itching to be out there with them but tried to make the best of his job-shadowing situation.
“It was super frustrating,” Conley said. “I’m a guy who prides himself on my play, and I like practice. I like to get better. But having J-Mac and Jason out there was invaluable. I was able to meet with those guys off the field, get those guys in the film room and stay up to date.”
Tuesday marked the second day of workouts for Conley, and he got work with the first team both days. Maclin has missed both days while resting a neck injury.
There is no word on whether Conley will play in the Chiefs’ preseason opener Saturday at Arizona.
“It’s a day-to-day thing,” Conley said. “It’s my job to keep my head in the playbook and be ready.”
Conley figures to be a big part of the Chiefs’ passing game, which is looking for an upgrade after finishing 29th in passing yards last season with few big plays and no touchdown catches by wide receivers.
The Chiefs were thrilled the 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete who clocked a 4.35-second 40-yard dash with a 45-inch vertical leap was available in the third round. And he didn’t disappoint during organized team activities earlier in the year.
“He just came in and picked up the offense, just like that,” cornerback Phillip Gaines said. “This type of offense is really complicated, so to be able to come in and learn a whole bunch of different positions is real tough. He handled it very well.”
As the practice days passed with no action, Conley remained active.
“The coaches did a great job keeping me involved even though I was off to the side,” he said. “I kept my mind sharp, and they kept me up to date on the installs. So when I came out here I was able to move in seamlessly, so it’s been a good transition.”
Conley said he’s working on picking up an offense that impressed him from the first meeting he had with coach Andy Reid.
“The terminology and the way he talked about the offense,” Conley said, “it wasn’t as if the offense was just routes on a page — it’s as if it was a living, moving thing. And in his mind, it is.
“There’s a reason there’s a learning curve when you come in as a young receiver. There’s so much you have to get used to.”
That’s why Conley spends as much time as he can with Maclin and Avant, whose combined career numbers — 674 receptions, 8,770 yards, 49 touchdowns — have been accumulated over 14 seasons.
“I like where he’s at,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “Any time you miss significant time like he has, you’re playing catch-up a bit.
“I do like where he’s at mentally. He challenges himself every day. He studies, he takes notes at meetings and comes out here and listens and learns.”