The move began as a half-hearted tease last season, an out-loud thought experiment between two Chiefs coaches. Eventually, though, Andy Reid became serious enough to approach rookie cornerback Tremon Smith with the idea.
Would you be interested in moving to the offensive side of the football?
Well, of course, Smith answered without hesitation. And so in the ensuing days, they glanced over a few packages, shifting Smith from a wildcat quarterback to a slot receiver. But after none of those potential plays materialized in a game, Smith figured that was that.
Then he ran into Reid during the first day of training camp in St. Joseph.
“Hope you’ve been working on your offensive side,” Reid said, as Smith recalled.
“Of course, coach,” Smith replied. “Always.”
The unusual move is no longer fantasy. As of Wednesday, it’s reality.
The Chiefs shifted Smith from cornerback to running back during training camp practice Wednesday. And if all goes well, it’s a move that just might stick.
Smith, an all-state quarterback in high school, ran with the second-team offense. His first play actually directly preceded the lightning that prompted the practice session to move indoors.
During the indoor portion of Wednesday’s workouts, Smith lined up primarily at running back, occasionally splitting out wide in empty-backfield sets. He carried the ball twice in a no-pads practice, once for a gain and once for a loss.
However long the experiment lasts, Smith will still factor into special teams. He remains the team’s primary kickoff returner.
“I messed with him last year that I was gonna play him a little on the offensive side, so I moved him over today just to take a peek at him,” Reid said. “We’ll see how that goes. We know he can be a corner. But I’d like to see him do some offensive stuff, too.”
Reid said special teams coach Dave Toub first mentioned last season that Smith could be an explosive weapon on offense if presented the opportunity. The two liked the way he handled kickoff-return duties in 2018. The speed stands out.
So Reid began to study the idea. As it turns out, some evidence of its potential success already existed. Smith played quarterback quite well at Saks High in Alabama, earning all-state honors. His last attempt playing running back came during his early high school days.
He switched to cornerback and special teams at Central Arkansas, but when the Chiefs drafted him in the spring of 2018, he mentioned a desire to play with the ball in his hands. Smith ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at his pro day but was clocked as low as 4.3.
“I’m excited,” Smith said. “You gotta be excited catching the ball from the MVP.”
The Chiefs actually used Smith on offense once last season — on the scout team. Ahead of a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs asked Smith to mimic Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
On Wednesday, Smith walked around the Chiefs’ locker room at Missouri Western State wearing a red jersey — No. 20 instead of No. 39 — signifying his place on the offense. (The defense wears white.) His teammates thought it might be a joke.
“They couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “They see me with the red jersey on, and they’re like, ‘Are you doing this for scout team today?’ I’m like, ’No, this is a permanent move. Get used to it.’”