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  • 30 Aug
    KANSAS
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    , Mo. — Defensive tackle Chris Jones chose to skip the
    beginning of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday, the
    latest step in the growing discord over his looming contract situation.Jones is
    hoping to parlay the finest season of his career into a massive payday as he
    enters the final year of his rookie contract. But with negotiations seemingly
    going nowhere, the affable 24-year-old defensive tackle opted not to participate
    in the Chiefs’ voluntary workouts.Now that they are mandatory, Jones is risking
    a fine for being absent this week.Chiefs coach Andy Reid is planning to speak
    with reporters only on Thursday, when the minicamp wraps up. But his viewpoint
    is unlikely to have changed from a couple of weeks ago, when he said: “We just
    go. If you’re here, you get better. If you’re not, you don’t.”It’s hard to
    imagine Jones being a whole lot better than last season.He appeared in all 16
    games and had career highs in just about every meaningful category: 40 total
    tackles, 29 quarterback
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    19 tackles for loss and a whopping 15 1/2 sacks.That last number was the most
    important for a team that desperately needed any pressure it could generate on
    the quarterback. The Chiefs had arguably the league’s best offense, anchored by
    quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but they also had perhaps the league’s worst
    defense.It was that unit that failed miserably in the playoffs, when the Chiefs
    were unable to stop Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in their overtime
    loss in the AFC championship game.The Chiefs made major moves to address the
    defense this offseason, firing coordinator Bob Sutton and hiring Steve Spagnuolo
    as his replacement. They also jettisoned longtime stalwarts such as Eric Berry
    and Justin Houston, brought in big names Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu, and
    began the difficult task of changing from a 3-4 system to a 4-3 defensive
    set.And while Jones’ unique set of abilities should allow him to flourish no
    matter the system, there is still a learning curve that takes place, and
    participating in the offseason program would be helpful.“We don’t really talk
    about
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    ,” said Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller, when
    asked about Jones’ absence. “We just focus on our position groups. We mow our
    own lawn.”To be sure, the guys who showed up at minicamp Tuesday have enough to
    mow.The Chiefs have a handful of newcomers on offense, including wide receiver
    Mecole Hardman, their top draft pick. They also are working around missing wide
    receiver Tyreek Hill, who was suspended from all team activities while the NFL
    investigates his domestic violence situation.It is likely that Hill will miss at
    least part of the season.But the bulk of the pressure facing the Chiefs is
    centered on the defense. Clark and Mathieu are among a dozen newcomers who will
    be counted on to shore up the sieve-like unit this season, and minicamp is the
    last chance to work together before training camp in late July.“It’s a long
    process,” Spagnuolo said. “What I look for right now is building a foundation.
    I’ve talked extensively with the guys about that. It’s been all about building a
    foundation of fundamentals.“That goes to communication and to believing in the
    system,” he added. “I’ve talked extensively about mastering the things that take
    very little talent. It doesn’t take a lot of talent to communicate or to call
    out an under route or get aligned. Those little things we need to get taken care
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    , otherwise it creates holes and then we have problems. So
    I’m more focused on that.”The rest of the guys? Forgive them for letting their
    focus wander just a bit, especially given how close the Chiefs came to returning
    to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly five decades.“We can be really
    good. If you’re talking about No. 1 in the league across all of the boards, I
    feel like that’s the potential we have,” Clark said. “This is a hard league,
    every game is hard. You think we are going to have the same things happen as
    last year? No, it’s going to be a little different. You want more success than
    just runner-up, but you just have to work. It’s a work atmosphere here. I’m just
    thankful to be a part of it.”100View
    Gallery Gallery:View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2018Raj
    Mehta-USA TODAY Sports | Raj Mehta The AFC and NFC Championship Games will
    represent either the triumph of experience over youth, or a changing of the
    guard in the NFL.That’s because Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Chiefs
    quarterback Patrick Mahomes will have the biggest age gap ever between two
    postseason starting quarterbacks. And Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Rams
    quarterback Jared Goff will have the third-biggest.Here are the four biggest age
    differences between playoff starting quarterbacks, counting Sunday’s games:18
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    1 month: Tom Brady (41) vs. Patrick Mahomes (23) in 2019.16 years, 2 months: Tom
    Brady (40) vs. Marcus Mariota (24) in 2018.15 years, 9 months: Drew Brees (40)
    vs. Jared Goff (24) in 2019.15 years, 6 months: Steve DeBerg (37) vs. Todd
    Marinovich (22) in 1991.If the Patriots and Saints win, the Brady vs. Brees
    matchup will have the oldest pair of starting quarterbacks of any NFL postseason
    game ever. If the Chiefs and Rams win, it will be a passing of the torch to the
    next generation.