KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chill, Sean McGrath fans: The Beard is coming back. Bigger and bushier and badder than ever.
"I tell everyone I gave up last year’s beard because I’m growing a ‘Lombardi Beard,’" the Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "It’ll be down kind of along mid-chest level, because I’ll be playing next February."
Last Friday, the 6-foot-5 McGrath — who led Chiefs tight ends in plays (621) last fall, according to ProFootballFocus.com — went to his Twitter account to tell the world that his voluminous beard, the one that, by November, had garnered at least three unofficial fake Twitter accounts of its own, was … no more.
Last Saturday, Chiefs sideline reporter Rachel Santschi posted a picture of the newly clean-shaven McGrath, wearing a pensive look, on her Twitter feed.
"Oh, man," McGrath says, chuckling. "My Twitter (feed) went through my emails just like (crazy). On Twitter, people kind of — they liked it or they didn’t. And I think it’s funny. And I’ll play the game while I can.
"But it’ll be back, though. It’s kind of been my trademark. The fans love it. I’m going gung-ho."
The Chicago native says he usually undergoes an offseason trim, just to change things up. One time, he tried a set of Wolverine-like muttonchops. Another time, it was a Rollie Fingers-style handlebar mustache.
"A lot of people (were), I don’t want to say ‘devastated,’ but it was kind of distraught," McGrath says, chuckling again. "They didn’t like it. But it’s a process."
And speaking of a process, the former Henderson State standout has been back at the Chiefs’ facility off and on this winter, working out with a few other players as part of the franchise’s offseason regimen. And McGrath says the number of teammates pounding the rock is growing by the week as spring organized team activities loom.
"So we’re (working) to get a great offseason, to continue the run that we started last year," McGrath says. "And it’s exciting. There’s a whole buzz going around the whole building. It’s so positive.
"We had a great group of guys (in 2013), and I understand this is a business, and it’ll never be the same as it was last year. That’s just reality. But the whole organization, it’s great, just from the top of the ladder on down. It’s one of those infectious things you want to be involved in."
It is a business, though, and sometimes a funny one, at that. A year ago at this time, McGrath was a reserve with the Seahawks — and while he landed on both feet and couldn’t be happier in Kansas City, he was also a camp casualty of the eventual Super Bowl champions.
"Yeah, it’s bittersweet," says McGrath, who appeared in a pair of games with the Seahawks in 2012.
"But by the same token, like I said before, it’s a business. And I congratulate all those guys over there because they all deserve it. Like I said, the offseasons are so crucial — not only getting better individually but building that team chemistry that I know that they had and I saw them play with. And that’s something that we have here."
Over the past few months, the 26-year-old McGrath, now heading into the third season of a four-year deal, has been putting down roots in the metro. He says he’s even getting recognized around town, sans beard. Which is … well, it’s different.
"I’m a big guy, anyway, so naturally, people are going to eye you up," McGrath says. "Sometimes people will, but not as much as (they) did when I had that animal on my face."
By the time camps get going, the beast will be back. In the meantime, the Chiefs’ tight end is heading to Ireland for a few weeks to get in touch with his roots, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the "motherland" and get a head start on the whiskers.
Meet the new beard. Same as the old beard?
"I don’t have any inclinations to really change how I did it last year," McGrath says. "It was working for me."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.