KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was like old times for Clyde Edwards-Helaire during most of offseason practice for the Kansas City Chiefs. He took his place as the starting running back just as he had for much of the time since the Chiefs drafted him in the first round in 2020.
It was easy to think nothing had changed for Edwards-Helaire, but plenty is different. He lost his starting job last year to rookie Isiah Pacheco even before he suffered a high-ankle sprain that kept him out of the lineup for half of the season.
He was inactive for the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII win over the Philadelphia Eagles even after being activated off the injured reserve list. The Chiefs this spring then declined to exercise their fifth-year option on his contract, meaning he could well be headed into his final season with the team.
Edwards-Helaire was working with the starters in the offseason only because Pacheco was rehabbing after having surgery and another running back, Jerick McKinnon, was not participating.
Once Pacheco and McKinnon are back at training camp, Edwards-Helaire is looking at being no better than third on the depth chart. Edwards-Helaire said shortly before the Chiefs wrapped up offseason practice that he will worry about his future later.
For now, he will concentrate on being a more consistent producer than he was in his first three NFL seasons.
“I can’t think two years ahead from now or the position I will be in 12 months from now,” Edwards-Helaire said. “It was really coming in and figuring out and seeing the things I can work on and from that point on rolling with it.
“I know what I have to do in order to get on the field and do the things I need to do this year.”
One thing for Edwards-Helaire is to stay healthy. Each of his three seasons were interrupted by an injury that caused him to miss at least three games.
Even when he was in the lineup, Edwards-Helaire wasn’t as productive as the Chiefs hoped he would be when he was drafted. He led the Chiefs in rushing as a rookie with 803 yards, but was second with 517 yards behind Darrel Williams in 2021 and third with 302 yards behind Pacheco and quarterback Patrick Mahomes last season.
He also had little impact as a receiver, catching 72 passes over the three seasons.
Edwards-Helaire appeared frustrated with all of last season’s developments. He skipped the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade, though he said that was because he had a prior commitment.
“I wouldn’t say it was a roller coaster,” Edwards-Helaire said. “I wouldn’t even say it was some of the hardest things [to go through]. You go through something, you figure it out.
“You kind of [focus] in on what you need to focus on and you go at that. You can’t really shoot for the stars if you’re not aiming for the things to get to the stars. You’ve got to get through some planets and some other things in order to get to where you want to go. [There were] some trials and tribulations throughout that time but I was never down and out.”
Running backs coach Todd Pinkston acknowledged Edwards-Helaire had been bothered by last season’s developments but said he put that behind when offseason work started.
“His mindframe is totally different,” Pinkston said. “I told him to press the reset button and start from scratch and we can go from there.”
Without Pacheco injured and McKinnon not practicing in a nod to his advanced age for a running back (31), the Chiefs had little choice but to get Edwards-Helaire plenty of work. Their other running backs are Deneric Prince, an undrafted rookie, and La’Mical Perine, who joined the Chiefs’ practice squad last season during the playoffs.
“It was great for him to get all the reps that he did,” coach Andy Reid said. “He did a nice job with it. Obviously he's talented.”
Edwards-Helaire spent time after the Super Bowl working with two of his assistant coaches in college at LSU, former NFL running back Kevin Faulk and Tommie Robinson. The goal was to get him back to the player he was at LSU.
“We worked on some of the things we did in college,” said Edwards-Helaire. “Those are the guys who know me best. They watched who I was in college, figured out who I was throughout that time. They watched me in high school because they were the guys recruiting me. They kind of gave me pinpoints here and there and then we figured it out and worked on it.”
When Pacheco and McKinnon return to practice, there may not be much time available for Edwards-Helaire. Pacheco and McKinnon were important players for the Chiefs last season.
But the Chiefs have had to dig deep into their depth chart at running back because of injuries the past several seasons. If this one is anything like those, Edwards-Helaire could wind up playing a lot.
“We’re going to need that three-, four-headed monster,” he said. “It’s a 17-game season.”