Jonathan Baldwin Eager To Make Return
Chiefs first-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwinmade his first real strides towards an NFL debut last week.
Baldwin, whose been nursing a thumb injury since August 17th, practiced for the first time of the regular season last Wednesday and Thursday before the Chiefs eventually ruled the wide receiver out for Sunday’s game in San Diego.
When the Chiefs began preparations for Minnesota this week, Baldwin was once again on the field taking in portions of practice that the team’s medical staff would allow.
“I’m doing everything that I can to get back on the field, so whenever the coaching staff and the trainers say that I’m ready to go is when I’ll play,” Baldwin said.
“I’m still preparing myself the same way. I still get a game plan and still go through the defense to see the things they do and prepare myself the same way as if I were playing, so when I come back I’m not behind the eight ball.”
Baldwin’s participation has yet to span an entire practice, but he’s been able to work on route running throughout his rehabilitation.
He’s performed routes on air, without footballs, over the past month with teammates and members of the Chiefs strength and conditioning staff.
“Every day I get the scripts for the week and I just do everything that they’re doing, but I’m not actually participating with those guys,” Baldwin explained. “I’m still staying up to par with all of the routes and things of that nature.
“I’m getting all of the extra work in that I can, talking to (Dwayne) Bowe and talking to the older guys about the things that they see and look at when they are playing so I can put some of those things in my memory bank.”
Without Baldwin, Kansas City’s downfield passing game has suffered. The Chiefs managed just two pass plays of 20 yards or more over the fist 10 quarters of the season.
It wasn’t until last Sunday’s second half that the passing game started to show signs of life. Kansas City doubled its seasonal output of big passing plays in the third and fourth quarters of that game, connecting for gains of 21, 23, 23 and 43 yards.
“I’m very eager to return,” Baldwin said. “I’m a competitor and it sucks to be on the sideline and I’m just eager to get back in there as soon as I can.”
Though he was ruled out of last Sunday’s game in advance, Baldwin made the trip to San Diego and caught several passes during pre-game warm-ups at Qualcomm Stadium. He also traveled with the team to Detroit in Week Two.
“I think you’ll see more and more activity (from Baldwin) and we’ll just have to see how it goes,” head coach Todd Haley said.
However, neither player nor coach would set a timeline for the receiver’s return.
“To tell you the truth, I’m just doing whatever the trainers want me to do,” Baldwin said. “I can’t try and do anything they don’t want me to do, so whenever they clear me I’ll just be ready to go.”
Baldwin played in just one preseason game, working with backup quarterbacks Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi in the latter stages of the preseason opener vs. Tampa Bay. He has limited experience working with starter Matt Cassel and isn’t sure what his immediate receiving role will be once he’s cleared to return.
“That’s up to the coaching staff and Coach Haley,” Baldwin said. “I can’t really determine where they are going to put me. I just got to keep working to get back on the field as fast as I can.
“It’s disappointing not to be out there with my teammates. I really want to be out there with those guys and am doing everything as far as rehab and watching film on the other team to stay up to par.”