Kansas City, Mo. Jon Baldwin bristled at the notion that he’s a diva, or anything short of a team player, even though the Chiefs wide receiver has missed his entire rookie season so far after hurting his thumb in an altercation with a teammate.
The first-round draft pick spoke for the first time Wednesday since the injury.
Baldwin said that he’s been catching balls and running routes, and he hopes to be back on the field soon, even though he’s leaving it up to coach Todd Haley to determine when that might be as the Chiefs prepare to host the Vikings in a matchup of 0-3 teams.
“I’m very eager. I’m a competitor,” said Baldwin, who was listed as limited on the practice report Wednesday. “I’m just eager to get back there as soon as I can.”
Baldwin had a somewhat tarnished reputation during his otherwise successful career at Pittsburgh, where he was labeled by some critics as aloof. Still, the Chiefs gambled on his undeniable talent and imposing physical stature — he’s 6-foot-4, 230 pounds — and selected him 26th overall.
He was supposed to provide a deep threat to complement breakout star Dwayne Bowe, but his injury during training camp put the brakes on everything. Even though Baldwin has been at every team meeting and been a staple on the sidelines at practice, the missed time has kept him from getting up to speed and building a rapport with quarterback Matt Cassel.
“It’s disappointing not to be out there with my teammates,” Baldwin said. “I really want to be out there with those guys, so I’m just doing everything as far as rehabbing and being out there.”
When asked whether Baldwin believes he’s a good teammate, he said “definitely.”
“I’m around them every day, so they know what kind of person I am,” Baldwin said, gazing around the locker room. “They know what kind of person I am, what I’m like.”
Baldwin’s big-play potential can’t arrive soon enough for a Chiefs offense that has struggled mightily through three losses to start the season. Kansas City is ranked 30th in the league in total offense, and just 31st in passing offense.
“It’s definitely going to help (having Baldwin available),” running back Dexter McCluster said. “He can run, he’s physical, he can block, so that’s another person that they have to worry about.”
McCluster said his rookie season last year was a big adjustment, but he didn’t want to speculate how much the missed time has set Baldwin back.
“He just needs to get used to game speed again, but the fast he comes along, the better we’ll be,” McCluster said. “It was a big adjustment for me, but everybody is different, so maybe not (for him). Hope not.”