With fresh start, Mike Hughes looks forward to ‘next step forward’ with KC Chiefs

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Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes didn’t want to spend time explaining why it didn’t work out with the Minnesota Vikings, where he appeared in 24 games with seven starts from 2018 to 2020.

Selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Vikings, Hughes points out his injuries, which included a torn ACL and neck issues over the past three seasons, were a factor.

But after the Chiefs traded for Hughes in May, the cornerback has turned the page on the past and prefers to focus on the present.

“I just try to turn everything into a positive,” Hughes said after Saturday’s practice. “Obviously, I’ve been dealing with some injuries, that’s probably the main thing. Just trying to move forward, like I said I’m blessed to be here, and I’m ready to take this next step forward.”

It certainly didn’t hurt knowing where he was heading when he found out about the trade.

“My agent gave me the call, and well, we already kind of knew a trade was going to go down, just didn’t know where,” Hughes said. “So, when I found out it was here, obviously I was excited, Super Bowl contending team, couldn’t land at a better spot.”

Hughes’ approach to moving on seems to be working well.

He joined a position group that carried some question marks on depth outside of starters Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed before the start of training camp. But the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Hughes has quickly emerged as part of the first-team rotation in the nickel package.

Through four unpadded practices and whenever the Chiefs defense moves out a 4-3 base scheme, it’s Hughes entering at right cornerback, while Sneed slides inside at the slot.

The Chiefs also have Deandre Baker and Rashad Fenton, among others, competing at cornerback. But Hughes’ versatility might give him the early edge despite the fourth-year pro being new to the defense.

“I’ve been playing straight outside so far,” said Hughes, who enters the final year of his contract. “Obviously with the Vikings, I was playing nickel and corner. But here, I’ve just been playing outside.

“I’m still trying to get adjusted to the system. I’m doing everything the coaches are asking me to do. With my skill set, I feel like I can play anywhere.”

Hughes, who turned 24 in February, pointed out he can play either man coverage, zone coverage or off coverage. And each area fits the way Chiefs defensive coordinator deploys the defensive backs within the scheme.

Hughes’ ability as a press-man cornerback and the way he attacks the ball has also caught the attention of head coach Andy Reid.

“Mike is a worker,” Reid said Saturday. “Extremely tough, extremely disciplined, technique-oriented, fundamentals, and you see how he does everything with that. I’ve liked what I’ve seen there.”

Hughes will have opportunities to continue building on his strong start to training camp once the pads come on in the coming week. He will also have three preseason cases to make a case to open the season as a contributor in the nickel package as an outside cornerback.

So far, he has moved forward from Minnesota with a good start in a Chiefs uniform. As for the injuries that plagued the early part of career?

They’re in the past, too.

“I’m completely 100 percent, man,” Hughes said. “I’ve never felt better.”

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