ST. JOSEPH — The Kansas City Chiefs began arriving on the campus of Missouri Western for their first training camp under coach Andy Reid on Monday, toting into the dorms everything from flat-screen TVs to box fans to combat the heat and humidity.
Rookies and quarterbacks were due in ahead of the full squad, which will begin practice in earnest on Friday. But absent from the trail of players trickling in was Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft and the presumptive starter at right tackle.
The Kansas City Chiefs have restructured their player engagement department less than a year after one of their players was involved in a murder-suicide near Arrowhead stadium.
Kirsten Krug, the Chiefs' vice president of administration, will oversee the department. She will work alongside B.J. Stabler, who has experience in crisis management.
Last season, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death and then drove to the team's practice facility. Belcher then shot himself in the head while general manager Scott Pioli, coach Romeo Crennel and assistant coach Gary Gibbs watched from the parking lot.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan said in a statement Monday the franchise worked with the NFL to restructure its player engagement department with ideas taken from around the league.
The new-look department will use a team of external resources to help players and staff with mental, emotional and physical wellness, along with mentoring and career development.
Fisher still has not signed a contract, even though a rookie wage scale put in place in the latest collective-bargaining agreement takes much of the drama out of the negotiations.
Reid said that general manager John Dorsey and Fisher's agent, Joel Segal, are talking but that he doesn't know when the former Central Michigan standout will report to camp.
"I'd expect that to progress here and we'll see how it all works out," Reid said. "I can't really give you a time. I'm really not going to talk about contracts. That's just not what we do. But they are working through it, and that's important. There's communication."
Fisher attended the Chiefs' entire offseason program in Kansas City, including a three-day rookie minicamp, and said at the time he wasn't concerned about when a deal would get done.
"You'd love him tonight, that's what you'd love, but I understand how these things go," Reid said. "I don't worry too much about it. I try to concentrate on the guys who are here, and we go with it. And listen, as long as there's communication going on, I know it'll get done."
Reid said several players who were dealing with injuries during the offseason program — among them tight end Tony Moeaki, wide receiver Donnie Avery and running back Shaun Draughn — checked into camp along with the rookies and quarterbacks and will be on the field.
Each of them has passed a physical and will be allowed to practice.
"We're looking forward to getting started," Reid said. "Get them on the field tomorrow and have a short practice, and then a walk-through in the afternoon, and then meetings in between. We'll do that for three days. We have selected vets in, that means the quarterbacks are here, and injured players. ... There are a few of those here."
There's little time to waste in Reid's first training camp with the Chiefs.
The franchise is coming off one of the most abysmal seasons in NFL history, one that resulted in a 2-14 finish and the dismissals of coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli. Along the way, the team weathered an ugly fan revolt and a grisly murder-suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed the mother of his child before shooting himself at the team's practice facility.
Not long after the season ended, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt swiftly overhauled the entire organization, promising to take a more hands-on role in the franchise founded by his father.
He hired Reid just days after he was let go by the Eagles, and then plucked Dorsey from the Green Bay Packers, where he had helped build one of the most stable franchises in the league.
Together, the new brain trust rebuilt a roster that featured six Pro Bowl players but enough holes to finish in the bottom of the AFC West. They traded for quarterback Alex Smith, signed a slew of veteran free agents, and then used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on Fisher.
It's time now to see the product they put together on the field.
"Look at the coach, the first pick last year. The NFL is the best of the best," said running back Knile Davis, the Chiefs' third-round draft pick. "Anything can happen, and we're only looking at good things happening in Kansas City."
The Chiefs will practice primarily in the mornings, a departure from the past, in an attempt to beat the heat and humidity of St. Joseph. The afternoons will be reserved for walk-throughs and meetings as the team tries to jell ahead of its preseason opener Aug. 9 at New Orleans.
Their first regular-season game is Sept. 8 at Jacksonville.
It can't come soon enough, either.
"The entire locker room is hungry. Expectations are high and I think that's a good thing," said Smith, wiping a bit of sweat off his brow while standing in the shade of Scanlon Hall. "The fun thing now is that we'll put the pads on and get to playing real football."