ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs returned to practice on Sunday without right tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick who hurt his right shoulder in their preseason opener.
Fisher also hurt his left thumb in Friday night's game in New Orleans, briefly leaving the sideline to get it taped up. But first-year Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said after the team returned to training camp on Sunday that Fisher missed practice because of a separate shoulder injury.
"It's a bruise in there," Reid said. "It really showed up late. He didn't complain about it during the game. He didn't complain about it after the game. It showed up yesterday."
Fisher started at right tackle against the Saints after the Chiefs made the former Central Michigan star the top pick in the draft over Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel.
While it's clear that Fisher has uncanny athleticism for a man his size, the 6-foot-7, 306-pound rookie has struggled to get acclimated to life in the NFL. He's been beaten often by pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in one-on-one drills, and more than once quarterback Alex Smith has had to scramble during 11-on-11 sessions of practice.
Reid has acknowledged that Fisher is going through some growing pains, just like any first-year player, and that his progress in the preseason will be crucial to the offense's success.
Now, it's not clear whether he'll play Friday night against San Francisco.
"He can't quite get the motion he needs, but again, it's not structural. It's a muscle bruise," Reid said. "We'll just get it settled down and see where it goes. It's day to day."
Donald Stephenson worked out in Fisher's place at right tackle as the Chiefs returned to work following a day off Saturday. But the swapped-out piece on the line hardly seemed to make a difference: Everybody on offense seemed to struggle throughout practice.
Right guard Jon Asamoah jumped for no apparent reason during the first full-squad scrimmage. Smith heard his coaches blowing their whistles more than once to signify a delay of game. Wide receiver Jon Baldwin, the former first-round pick who has struggled all of camp, had a ball go right through his fingers to the collective groan from another large crowd of fans.
"We need to do better than today," said tight end Tony Moeaki, who was left sprawled on the field when backup cornerback Jalil Brown broke up a pass intended for him late in practice.
"Every camp there's highs and lows," Moeaki said, "and we just need to push through those lows. We just need to keep getting better, that's all I can say."
The hangover following the Chiefs' first preseason game was particularly strange given the way the Kansas City offense executed when the No. 1 unit was in the game against New Orleans.
Smith only threw one incompletion — he was throwing the ball away to avoid a sack — and the Chiefsmixed up their plays while marching 80 yards for a touchdown in the eventual 17-13 defeat.
"That first drive was a good spark for us," wide receiver Dexter McCluster said.
The only sparks in practice on Sunday came from the defense.
They also looked good against Drew Brees and the rest of the Saint's first-team offense, but they managed to carry their high level of play back to practice. Hali and Houston made the entire 2-hour, 30-minute workout miserable for Smith and the rest of the Kansas City offense.
"You know how camp is. Every day is a new day," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said, "and it just kind of seems one day one side is ahead of the other, the next day it kind of reverses itself. Today we had a good day out there."
That follows a common theme that has developed throughout training camp.
While the Chiefs offense tries to integrate several new players and get up to speed under Reid, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson and the rest of the new-look coaching staff, a defense that returns four Pro Bowl players from a year ago has dominated the majority of practices.
"I think we're getting each other better on both sides of the ball," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "We're helping each other to get better. That's what this is about."
Notes: DE Austen Lane (ribs) and WR Junior Hemingway (thumb) also did not practice. ... Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt attended practice once again. He promised during the offseason that he would take a more hands-on role with the franchise that his late father Lamar Hunt founded, and so far the younger Hunt has been more visible at practice than in years past.