The Kansas City Chiefs were given the day off on Thursday for Christmas.
As quarterback Alex Smith learned of a three-centimeter laceration on his spleen that will force him to miss Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, Chase Daniel, who was surrounded by family, took a phone call from Chiefs coach Andy Reid informing him that he’d be the starting quarterback against the Chargers.
“We were at Christmas dinner when I got the call from coach Reid,” Daniel explained. “My family is in there and I’m in the other room just talking, calling Alex, calling (quarterbacks coach) Matt Nagy, calling coach Reid, going over the situation there, just trying to keep me abreast on what’s going on.”
Daniel, a six-year NFL veteran who was made just one start in his career, which was ironically in a playoff-deciding game for the Chargers in Week 17 last season, then informed his family of what he had learned.
“You could hear a pin drop in the other room when I came in and I was like ‘Hey, well, I guess I’m going.’”
Daniel’s first reaction had nothing to do with football, but more of concern for a friend.
“First and foremost, obviously, only thing on my mind was, ‘Is Alex OK?’ How’s he doing?’” he said. “Because when you get a call like that, you’re like what’s happening? Why is coach Reid calling me on Christmas Day? And the first, second and third thought is I hope everything is OK with whoever it is that they’re calling me about.
“Then it’s, ‘Let’s go man. Let’s get ready. You’ve been preparing for this.’”
Smith and Daniel spoke on Thursday night, and while Daniel was initially concerned with the person Alex Smith, the conversation, led by Smith, quickly moved to football and the game plan for Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
“After I talked to [Alex] for a little bit about how his health was going, how his family was handling it,” Daniel explained. “[Alex] brought up right away, ‘Hey what are you thinking on this play? Let’s get you ready as much as possible.’”
“[Alex] is just there. He’s such a supportive guy. Obviously he wants to be there playing but he understands that health comes first. Already in meetings today on the field, I come off, ‘What do you see here? What do you see there?’ It’s a great working relationship.’”
During Friday’s press conference, Smith spoke of the preparation that Daniel has to cram in over the next 48 hours.
“I really felt like I ate up two practice days of his,” Smith said. “They would have been important had we known this earlier. Any way I can help us now. Whatever it is—helping him prepare, passing on anything that I had been thinking this whole week and getting ready for whatever.
“Just doing anything I can to help us get ready to go win a game.”
Having spent the last two seasons together in Kansas City, Daniel spoke of how well he and Smith have gotten to know one another during that time.
“The last few years, I can honestly say I’ve almost spent more time with him than I have my wife,” Daniel said. “So that just gives you a little bit of insight into how our relationship works. We’re both wired very similarly so it helps.
“It helps that we’re good friends off the field as well.”
“I really rely on Alex for what he sees and the veteran presence he has. He has been through about everything that you could possibly be through in his 10-year football career. He has some really good insight and I try to take his veteran leadership as much as possible.”
Daniel, who has worked behind the scenes in helping Smith over the past two seasons, which were the best back-to-back seasons of Smith’s career, will now find himself on the other side of that relationship.
“I think my role with him was just always in his ear,” Daniel said. “He’s now asking me these questions. He understands that I might not have played as many games as him but I’ve been a part of the league for six years now and I think that situation will just flip. He’ll be in there, ‘Hey did you see that? Did you see this?’ and I’ll love it, all the way.
“I’ll welcome it as much as possible.”
Last year against the Chargers in his first career start, Daniel finished 21 of 30 for 200 yards and one touchdown.