July 12, 2024

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce says he wants to keep playing football ‘until the wheels come off’

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and tight end Travis Kelce (87) talk during NFL football practice Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who signed a new two-year deal in April, said Tuesday that he wants to keep playing football “until the wheels come off” after the first day of the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp.

The 34-year-old Kelce signed a four-year, $57.25 million extension with Kansas City in 2020, which followed a $46 million, five-year deal that he signed in 2016. The latest $34.25 million pact ties Kelce to the team through the 2025 season.

“Kansas City has been home for me for the past 11 years. I’m reminded that every time I come back to the city,” Kelce said. “I do take the offseasons to get away and kind of recharge, but at the same time, I’m a football player. I love playing in the NFL.”

Still, Kelce acknowledged that the end of his career is much closer than the beginning, and that has fueled his desire to cross over into different avenues of sports and entertainment. He hosts one of the most popular podcasts across several genres with his brother and former Eagles center Jason Kelce, and he will soon host a quiz show on Amazon Prime.

He also has made appearances on such shows as “Saturday Night Live” and intends to continue dabbling in acting.

Then there is Kelce’s relationship with pop icon Taylor Swift, which has elevated him to another level of celebrity. It has helped him become of the NFL’s most widely known players, despite playing a position often considered far from glamorous.

“I can’t put a timeframe on it,” Kelce said of retirement. “Man, I love coming to work every single day. I know there’s opportunity outside of football for me, and I think you got to keep in perspective that I’m a little kid when I come into this building, man.

“I know I’m 34 years old — about to be 35 (in October) — but I have a lot to do right here, in the middle of the heat in June,” he continued. “I love coming to work every single day doing this. I’m going to do it until the wheels come off. Hopefully that doesn’t happen any time soon. But I definitely know it’s closer to the end of the road than the beginning of it.”

Kelce was chosen by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2013 draft, and despite missing almost all of his rookie season to a knee injury, has already become their career leader with 11,328 yards receiving. He needs 10 receptions to reach 917 and pass Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez for that record, and three touchdown catches would give him 77, dropping Gonzalez to No. 2 on that franchise list — both marks that he should reach in the first couple of weeks of this upcoming season.

“The odds of someone playing this far into their 30s is low,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach admitted recently, “but it does happen. There are unicorns in the profession and Travis is one of those. He’s shown no signs of slowing down.”

In other news Tuesday, Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker was absent with an illness while guard Joe Thuney was missing while continuing his recovery from surgery on a pectoral injury. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, defensive end Charles Omenihu and wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, were present but did not practice.

The three-day minicamp concludes Thursday, when the Chiefs have their Super Bowl ring ceremony.

“I’m sure when I unbox that ring it’s going to be special,” Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “There’s going to be a sentimental value attached to that that you can’t necessarily replicate. It’s going to be a fun night with teammates, seeing guys that are no longer here anymore and being able to reunite with those guys. It’s going to be fun.”