KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll stood in the middle of a practice field barking instructions at quarterback Matt Cassel, who proceeded to drop back and throw a perfect pass to Jonathan Baldwin.
For the time being, his No. 1 wide receiver.
The Chiefs opened their mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday without wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has not yet signed his franchise tender. That means Bowe is not under contract, and technically is exempt from the last series of workouts before training camp in late July.
“You like to have your good players with you, definitely, because every year you have to develop new team chemistry,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “I think he’ll be here eventually, and we’ll have to get him caught up.”
There was no defining “eventually” — could be later this week, could be the start of camp in St. Joseph, Mo., and it could be just before the start of the regular season.
The only thing that’s certain is that Bowe will be playing catch-up when he arrives and has to learn the new offense being installed by Daboll, who replaced Bill Muir as offensive coordinator.
Kansas City has otherwise had perfect attendance at just about every workout, voluntary and mandatory alike, allowing the Chiefs to quickly pick up Daboll’s system.
While there are some similar elements to what the Chiefs ran under Muir and Todd Haley, their previous head coach, there are enough differences that wide receiver Dexter McCluster said at one point that his “head was spinning.”
“It’s always hard learning a new playbook,” he said, “but Bowe, he’s a guy that learns fast. I talk to him every now and then. I know he’s working hard. He’s not taking any days off.”
Bowe is coming off a season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,159 and five TDs from a patchwork group of quarterbacks. He’s caught 356 passes for 4,927 yards and 36 touchdowns in his five-year career, even making his first Pro Bowl two years ago.
His franchise tender is valued at $9.5 million.
Bowe’s absence has meant more repetitions with the first team for Baldwin, who has made significant strides during his first full offseason.
The former first-round pick missed out on the entire process last season because of the lockout, and Baldwin didn’t truly hit his stride until late in the year. But he’s managed to carry over much of that momentum into what has been a strong series of workouts.
“I’m just trying to build every day,” he said, deftly side-stepping any question about Bowe missing practice. “Everybody here is just trying to get better.”
Crennel said one of the priorities of the Chiefs’ three-day minicamp will be to get their new offense in place, allowing for a seamless transition into training camp.
There are already signs of that happening.
Baldwin created enough space on three straight pass plays that he managed to haul in passes from Cassel with relative ease. Wide receiver Terrance Copper added a couple of impressive over-the-shoulder grabs, while the running game behind Peyton Hillis began to pick up steam.
“We have a new offensive coordinator, so the biggest thing is I want the offense in place,” Crennel said. “I want the guys to understand the terminology and then execute the offense. That’s the biggest thing.”
Bowe wasn’t the only player who didn’t participate fully on Tuesday.
Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry was excused from practice because of what Crennel called a “family issue.” He’s coming back from a torn left ACL and, along with All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki, would likely have been held out of contact drills anyway.
Rookie wide receiver Devon Wylie also missed practice after hurting his hamstring last week. The knock on Wylie coming out of Fresno State was that he was prone to injury.
Crennel said he’s not concerned that guys such as Berry and Charles have yet to take part in a full practice. He’d rather make sure that they are ready to go in training camp, which is why they have mostly been relegated to an adjacent practice field, where they are doing a variety of stretching exercises designed to solidify their knee ligaments.
Crennel said they’ve all been attending meetings and film sessions, allowing them to pick up the new offense and keeping them from falling too far behind.
“Just being on the field and seeing the defense across from you, I think that’s what he’s missing,” Crennel said, referring to Charles in particular. “We’ll wait until training camp and see how he does.”
Just like they’ll be waiting to see whether Bowe shows up.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” Crennel said.