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Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson, tackles record in sight, joins Chiefs at training camp

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ST. JOSEPH, Missouri — Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito made it through all of training camp last season, through the long practices and insufferable heat on the campus of Missouri Western State University.

Neither of them made it through their first game of the season.

Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, went down before halftime of the season opener with a torn Achilles tendon, leaving him 15 tackles shy of breaking the franchise's career record.

DeVito, a key part of the Chiefs' run defense, went down with the exact same injury just eight plays later, creating a 300-pound hole in the middle of their line.

So while Friday is usually a loathsome day for veterans as they report to the drudgery of training camp, it was hardly a surprise that Johnson and DeVito ambled up the pathway leading to Scanlon Hall with grins on their faces — and yes, some sweat on their brows.

"It feels great, whenever you have your health and strength back, to be back with the guys," said Johnson, one of the Chiefs' elder statesmen. "Everyone wants to see If I've lost a step — 'Is he back to normal? Is he back to form?'"

The Chiefs are certainly counting on Johnson and DeVito.

Their pass defense was among the league's best last season, but Kansas City struggled to stop the run. Twice the Chiefs allowed more than 200 yards rushing, and at one point they allowed more than 100 yards in six consecutive games. That stretch included a loss to the Broncos in which they allowed 214 yards, including 168 yards by unheralded C.J. Anderson.

"It's tough to watch. It's tough even when they do good. You want to be out there with them," Johnson said. "I'm not the savior that's going to save everything that went on with the running game, but am I going to help? A lot."

So will DeVito, especially after learning that nose tackle Dontari Poe will miss camp and potentially much of the season following back surgery.

DeVito was expected to play alongside Poe at defensive tackle, but there's a chance he could be asked to slide over to the nose position. He went through a similar situation during his final training camp with the New York Jets, and said he's willing to do whatever is asked of him.

PHOTO: Country music artist Kenny Chesney, center, visits with coaches at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football training camp Friday, July 31, 2015,  in St. Joseph, Mo. Chesney is performing a concert Friday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (Andrew Carpenean/The St. Joseph News-Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Country music artist Kenny Chesney, center, visits with coaches at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football training camp Friday, July 31, 2015, in St. Joseph, Mo. Chesney is performing a concert Friday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (Andrew Carpenean/The St. Joseph News-Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

After all, he's just happy to be back on the field.

"I enjoy playing down there. I enjoy playing nose. It's just a couple feet over but it's different," DeVito said. "I played a bunch of snaps there in my final year with the Jets."

The Chiefs expected everyone to report on time for Saturday's first full-squad workout.

That includes All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston, who was threatening to hold out of training camp while his representatives worked to land him a long-term deal. The two sides had been trying to negotiate a contract going back to last offseason, but they didn't come to terms until earlier this month, when Houston signed a $101 million, six-year contract.

Also on hand Friday was starting cornerback Sean Smith, who's been suspended for the first three games of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Smith, who was arrested last year on a drunken driving charge, pleaded guilty earlier this year. The 28-year-old paid a fine and received two years of probation, but did not learn his fate from the NFL until last week. The typical suspension for first-time offenders is two games, but Smith got a third game added to his penalty for crashing into a light post.

"I wasn't concerned with the number of games," said Smith, who is entering a potentially pivotal contract year. "Besides, that's a long time from now."

The Chiefs will practice five consecutive days before getting a break on Thursday, then have five more days of practice leading into their preseason opener Aug. 15 at Arizona.

They play their first preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium against Seattle on Aug. 21 — the day that Johnson and DeVito will be returning to the site of their season-ending injuries.

"It's been a long wait, coming off the injury, to get back here," DeVito said. "Watching when you're injured is always tough. That's the reason I'm excited to be here."

NOTES: Country music star Kenny Chesney was a guest for Chiefs' morning practice involving rookies and quarterbacks, and even caught a few passes from Aaron Murray. "He looked smooth. He looked good out there," Murray said. Chesney is performing at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday.


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