KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Travis Kelce snagged the pass from Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. He raced toward the sideline and then turned up field, diving from about the 4-yard line and just nicking the pylon.
The 20-yard touchdown catch last week against Miami was certainly highlight worthy. As for the little shimmy Kelce did to celebrate? Well, let’s just say the second-year tight end won’t impress Len Goodman or the rest of the judges from “Dancing With the Stars” anytime soon.
“He’s got a little flare,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid acknowledged. “He’s got a little zest to him.”
Just like a certain tight end he’ll see on Monday night.
The Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski set the bar when it came to flamboyant tight ends, a position that had always been filled by nameless, faceless pluggers. He waltzed onto the field, talked enough trash to fill a dumpster and generally became a thorn in the side of the Patriots’ opponents.
It wasn’t just his attitude, though. Gronk’s surprising speed, soft hands and the kind of athleticism that is normally found among wide receivers has created matchup problems for years.
“He’s a great player,” Kelce said. “Athletically, it’s hard to find a guy that’s big and strong and as fast as him, but he’s an all-around player. Hats off to him and what he’s done. Hopefully I can go ahead and keep this legacy going with good tight ends.”
In fact, Gronkowski sees a lot of himself in the young Chiefs tight end.
“He definitely caught my eye,” Gronkowski said. “He’s a good player. He’s got good size, good speed and good hands, from what I’ve seen so far.”
It’s no surprise, really. Kelce has in many ways modeled himself after the Patriots’ star.
“Our sizes match up,” Kelce said, “and then in terms of athleticism, our speed matches up pretty well. I mean, the guy can flat-out fly down the field. I feel that I can get moving, personally, as well. In terms of comparison, he’s an all-around tight end. He’s obviously one of the top in the league, if not the best in the league. It’s exciting just to kind of be compared to him.”
Both players have been especially valuable this season. The Chiefs and Patriots have struggled to get much production from their wide receivers, leaving their tight ends to fill the void.
“A lot of times, those guys, you get the matchups on linebackers and safeties and you’re looking for a matchup there. And Kelce gives us a little different one,” Smith said. “He can run a little more and can stretch the field a little bit and hopefully keep balance out of that because you really put the defense in a predicament as far as run and pass.”
After missing his entire rookie season because of a knee injury, Kelce is making up for lost time. He already has 10 catches for a team-leading 166 yards, and he scored his first career TD on that big play late in the first half of a 34-15 victory over the Dolphins last week.
The one that he finished with a little end-zone boogie.
Reid had no problem with the touchdown dance, though he didn’t seem too impressed by its sloppy execution. Reid learned a long time ago to let players showcase their personalities on the field.
“You can’t play this game without doing that, right? It’s an emotional game,” he said. “If you’re trying to be something you’re not, you have a problem. You’re not going to get the full genius of whatever person it is. These guys are the best in the world at what they do and they’ve all got personalities, and they’re all different and don’t try to hide it. Let it play out.”
Unless, of course, it’s going to cost the team a penalty.
Reid could only recall one time that he reined a player, back when he was in Philadelphia.
“I did with Hugh Douglas one time,” Reid said, referring to the retired defensive lineman, “and then I told myself I would never do that again because he didn’t play very well that day.”
Besides, it’ll be tough to get Kelce to tone it down for his first Monday night experience.
“I mean, it’s prime time,” he said, grinning. “The lights are going to be on. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully Arrowhead gives us the rocking stadium that we’re used to and we get the Sea of Red jumping.”
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