Now in his eighth season, the Kansas City linebacker made some changes in the offseason.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens talked about the goals with which he entered the offseason — and the progress his defensive teammates have been making.
Hitchens had previously said that he had worked on shedding some weight before the 2021 season — which he explained to reporters in a little more detail.
“So low 230s is what I want to play at — and stay at — all year long,“ he said. “And continue to work on my strength in my lower body and my core, so I don’t have lower-body injuries.”
And he claimed that during the first two games of the preseason, he’s been pleased with the results he has observed from his own play.
“I feel like it worked out great so far,” he said. ”Just watching the plays I had — I think I had like 20 snaps in two weeks — [I’m] getting sideline to sideline, making tackles and being able to run my feet when I’m getting to the tackle; not getting a late tackle, as in just sliding down an offensive player.”
But Hitchens also wanted to make it clear that it’s going to be a continuing effort for him.
“It’s not one of those things [that] when camp breaks, I’m done,” he insisted. “It’s a process that I’m going to carry out throughout the year.”
But Hitchens didn’t limit his offseason preparation to his physique. He took on some homework, too.
“I actually learned the SAM position in our base this offseason,” he said. “I had the details in the MIKE and the WILL — but in order for me to get the complete understanding of the whole defense, I went in and learned the outside backer at the SAM position in our defense.”
And unlike many other veteran players, Hitchens said he likes getting snaps in the preseason — so that he can see how much progress he’s made.
“Everyone’s at different levels,” he said of the exhibition season. “Sometimes, it’s to get familiar with the scheme. Sometimes it’s to get in better shape conditionally. [But] sometimes it’s just to see where you’re at in the years you’ve been in the league.
“For me this year, I’m taking it as ‘How much did I improve n the four to five months we had off?’ Going to back-to-back Super Bowls, our offseason has been a little shorter, but how much did I improve on just little things: my weight, my pad level, recognition, pre-snap reads and things like that.”
Hitchens said he was pleased with the way his defensive teammates played against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night, allowing just ten points to a team that averaged almost 27 points a game in 2020.
“We played really tight,” he observed. “But they didn’t have all their starters out there. Their best player — we all know — is DeAndre Hopkins. They didn’t have him out there, so I think their game plan would have been a little bit different with him out there.”
When evaluating how teams play in the preseason, Hitchens said it is important to keep those kinds of things in mind.
“I just think you try to take the ‘pros’ out of it and then build on them,” he said. “And there’s always some things you can work on. [In] preseason— when they’ve got some starters in and some starters out — it’s kind of hard. So we kind of really focus on ourselves and see how we improve from week to week.”
And for Hitchens, seeing those improvements — both in himself and others — is one of the rewards of what he does for a living. In every game they play, he — and his teammates — always have goals to reach as a group.
“I don’t go in each week just blindfolded — just trying to play the game,” said Hitchens. “I’m always trying to improve on something. Just to see it unfold on Sundays — or whenever the game day is — it’s amazing. As a group, there are goals we try to attain every week. Just to see it unfold on film is an amazing sight to see.”