WHO: Kansas City Chiefs
WHERE: St. Joseph, Missouri
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 5 – Monday, Aug. 6
HOW: Flight from Cincinnati to Kansas City with a layover in Chicago
Mitchell Schwartz and I are about halfway into our conversation in Sunday morning’s blazing heat when I drop a question I’m not sure he wants to talk about.
“Do you talk about the streak at all?” I ask.
“I’m not superstitious,” he replies. Game on.
The seventh-year right tackle has not only started in all 96 games of his NFL career, but he’s also never missed a snap. Unofficially, Schwartz has played 6,341 consecutive snaps. And after spending his first four years in Cleveland before his next two as a second-team All Pro in Kansas City, he’s gunning for Joe Thomas’s record.
“He [played] 10,363 [consecutive snaps] because he uses that on all his autographs now,” says Schwartz, who couldn’t come up with his own exact number. “I really want to beat it so it invalidates these next four years of autographs.”
So much goes into not missing a snap for six seasons, and remaining healthy is one aspect—Mitchell’s older brother, Geoff, played along the offensive line for eight seasons with a number of teams, including the Chiefs in 2013, but a rash of lower body injuries ultimately ended his career by the time he was 30. Mitchell credits good fortune for being able to avoid those kind of injuries.
Schwartz also recalls a story regularly told by Thomas, one that nearly ended his own streak. In a 2013 Thursday night game against Cincinnati, the Browns tried to substitute Vinston Painter in for Thomas late in the Browns’ 24-3 win. Earlier in the game, center Alex Mack had broken his leg (ending his consecutive snaps streak at 5,279), and head coach Mike Pettine presumably wanted to preserve his All Pro left tackle. But Thomas dismissed a confused Painter from the huddle and sent him back to the bench. After the series was over, offensive line coach Andy Moeller asked the remaining offensive linemen if they wanted a sub. They declined.
“There’s that element of just getting lucky,” Schwartz says, remembering back to his third year in the league. “If I was a rookie I probably would have been taken out.”
To break Thomas’s record, Schwartz cannot miss a play in his next 4,023 snaps. During the last six years, he’s averaged 1,056 snaps a season—if his average holds, he would break the record during the fourth quarter of the 13th game of the 2021 season.
Remember how I said the snap count is unofficial? The NFL doesn’t track consecutive snaps, but it does track consecutive starts. Though there are a handful of players with more consecutive starts than Schwartz, all of those players missed snaps in 2017. So you can eliminate everyone above Schwartz in consecutive starts for being in contention for consecutive snaps.
The 6,341 snap total for Schwartz comes from Pro Football Reference. And Schwartz has been trying to do the math on Thomas’s 10-year-plus total of 10,363 snaps and some things aren’t adding up for him.
“I’ve played six seasons and I’m over 6,000. I think they screwed up his...,” Schwartz says before trailing off. “I shouldn’t say this because I’m trying to beat him.”
OH, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT: I had forgotten how Larry Johnson’s days in Kansas City came to an end, with fans putting together an online petition for the team to cut him before he broke the franchise’s rushing record. The Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff caught up with Johnson, who said he’s done some soul-searching over the years to own his problems. Johnson also believes that he suffers from the affects of CTE at only 37 years old.
STORYLINE TO WATCH: I think my colleague Andy Benoit put it best in this tweet.
According to the Chiefs press corps, Mahomes has thrown at least nine interceptions already in camp, including a tipped ball on Monday on a two-minute drill pass intended for Sammy Watkins that Steven Nelson would have housed. I’ll have much more on Mahomes later this month, but suffice it to say that the Chiefs are willing to let Mahomes rip throughout camp so he knows what he can and can’t do with his big arm in the regular season.
TOP POSITION BATTLE: The No. 2 running back position behind Kareem Hunt is the most exciting battle of camp. Unfortunately, Charcandrick West has been sidelined with a concussion for more than a week, but Spencer Ware and Damien Williams appear to be neck-and-neck for the job. Hunt can be a blocking liability on passing downs, so the No. 2 back will be relied upon heavily on third downs this season for Kansas City.
OFFBEAT OBSERVATION: Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy had to be a pastor in a previous life. I watched and listened to him for about 10 minutes during his Monday press conference and came away thinking that this is a guy who knows how to communicate his message. He makes eye contact, makes strong hand gestures and tackles every part of the question. Coaching is about communicating, and I see more and more coaches rising through the ranks who are sharpening their public speaking tools. If Bieniemy gets a head coaching job, like so many of Reid’s coaches go on to do, he’s got the podium demeanor taken care of.
PARTING THOUGHTS: This is a question I always like to ask players at training camp: what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to autograph? Here’s what Mahomes had to say:
“I’ve autographed a lot of strange things. I would say … they always ask for my headband first off. I’m always like it’s like the sweatiest, nastiest possible thing you could get off me. I’m like ‘are you sure?’ One kid had a headband [of mine] that he brought back to me that he got last year and made me sign it. He said he had just been keeping it. I’m like you haven’t washed it? You’ve had this nasty headband sitting for an entire year?”