Jason Avant ready for fresh start in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) When he became a free agent after last season, Jason Avant wanted to go to Kansas City.
He wanted to be reunited with Andy Reid, his longtime coach in Philadelphia, and thought the Chiefs would be the perfect place to continue his career.
It finally happened. Just took a detour through Carolina first.
The veteran wide receiver signed with the Chiefs this week after getting released from the Panthers, hoping to prove that he still has something left. The Chiefs are just as hopeful that he can prove it considering how unproductive their group of pass-catchers has been this season.
”Things don’t always work out the way that you want them to work out,” said Avant, who hopes to play Sunday night against Denver. ”I was glad to be able to come here on the second go-around.”
Avant said the biggest draw was Reid, who was instrumental in the Eagles drafting him in the fourth round out of Michigan. Avant said that Reid has a knack for getting the most out of players, and his ability to relate to guys in the locker room creates a family atmosphere.
”When you have guys that want to follow you places, which most of the guys from the Eagles staff followed him here, you want to be around that type of person,” he said. ”He’s infectious.”
Avant has never been a speedster. But an ability to create space coupled with soft hands gives Kansas City an extra receiving threat that it so desperately needed.
After all, the Chiefs’ wide receivers have just 86 catches for 997 yards this season, both of the totals last in the NFL. None has caught a touchdown pass.
In fact, the one statistical category where the Chiefs lead the league is the only one they wouldn’t mind being last: drops. They’re dropping 6.4 percent of passes, most in the NFL.
”The biggest thing with Jason is he’s two years removed from this terminology, this system,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who also coached him in Philadelphia.
”We have to give him a handful of plays where he can go execute,” Pederson said. ”We always talk about playing fast. We have to be careful about how many plays we give him.”
Still, there is some familiarity with the playbook. Avant said he recognized about 70 percent of it when he arrived over the weekend. That gave him at least some head start in preparing for an important Sunday night game against the AFC West-leading Broncos.
The next big task was getting his timing down with quarterback Alex Smith. They went through a walk-through together Wednesday morning before practicing for the first time in the afternoon.
”He’s got to get in there and knock out a few of the new things, but he’s in shape, he’s been playing,” Reid said. ”It’s just a matter of getting familiar with the quarterback and getting going. I don’t think he’ll have any problem playing this weekend.”
The 31-year-old Avant will hardly be counted on to cure all of Kansas City’s ills. He only had 21 catches for 201 yards with Carolina, after all, and is a couple of years removed from his prime, when he hauled in 53 passes for 648 yards for Reid and the Eagles.
Still, he plans to contribute to their playoff push. The Chiefs are counting on it, too.
”I just want to make sure that I make the best of my opportunity here,” he said. ”Truth of the matter is that I am happy about being here. The Bible says, `Old things are passed away and behold all things that become new.’ So that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Notes: TE Anthony Fasano (knee), WR Junior Hemingway (concussion) and DT Kevin Vickerson (calf) did not practice, though Vickerson plans to play against his former team. ”I’m rolling Sunday,” he said. ”Trust me.” … WR Donnie Avery (sports hernia) is expected to be available for the first time since Sept. 29, and CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring) could be back after missing four games. Both were on the practice field Wednesday.
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