Kelce's return no small matter for Chiefs

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The most realistic hope for the Kansas City Chiefs to improve their passing game in 2014 is for them to get more than the 55 receptions they got last year from their tight ends. Their chances for that got better on Monday when Travis Kelce went through a full practice for the first time in almost a year.

It was just the beginning of a three-day rookie camp at Missouri Western State University. Selected veterans, Kelce being one, were also invited to participate. Full-squad training camp begins on Thursday.

Still, his return was a victory for the Chiefs and Kelce. An ailing knee and the resulting surgery caused Kelce to miss all of his rookie season last year, and then he was a bystander for virtually all of offseason practice.

Kelce moved around well and did so without a brace or any other kind of protection on the knee.

“From here, it’s just a matter of getting back into football shape and getting ready to play a 16-game season," he said.

The Chiefs would happily settle for whatever they can get from Kelce if he’s available to them for 16 games this year. They had big plans at tight end heading into training camp last year, with Kelce joining veterans Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano.

But because of injuries, neither Kelce nor Moeaki played a down on offense and Fasano missed eight games. The Chiefs pieced together a group of tight ends that included waiver claim Sean McGrath and did well to get to 55 catches from the position.

They need more from their tight ends this season. A healthy Kelce, as well as development from former college basketball player Demetrius Harris, figures large in those plans.

The Chiefs weren’t more aggressive about pursuing an accomplished wide receiver through free agency or the draft in part because they have big expectations for Kelce.

At 260 pounds, Kelce is big for a tight end, but he’s not just a receiver capable of running the short or intermediate routes. He’s proved capable of beating coverage to make catches down the field.

The prediction here is that with Kelce in their lineup for a full season, the Chiefs’ tight ends will blow past 55 catches at a relatively early point in the 2014 schedule.