Mike Burton explains how AFC title game loss continues to motivate Chiefs
The results of last year’s AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals still weigh heavily on the mind of Kansas City Chiefs FB Mike Burton.
The furthest Burton had advanced in the playoffs prior to last season in Kansas City was a trip to the divisional round with the New Orleans Saints in 2020. They’d be eliminated by the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reaching the AFC title game in 2021 with Kansas City, Burton was close to achieving a dream that every NFL enters the league with — to get a chance to compete in a Super Bowl.
“Man, being a game away from the Super Bowl. . . it’s part of that journey,” Burton said. “The dream is the Super Bowl, right? And you were so close to getting there. It just gives you more motivation. Right when the season ended, it’s all you’re thinking about, ‘What do I have to do to get back to that game?’ So, you want to get back to work. You’re highly motivated to make sure, not only that you get back to (the AFC championship) game, but you finish the game in order to get to the Super Bowl.”
The Chiefs fell short of their goal, narrowly missing out on their chance to compete in another Super Bowl. Burton says that he and the rest of his teammates wanted to get to work again the moment the clock struck zero. After taking a step back and now getting back to it in the offseason program, the team has a fresh perspective on what they can do to ensure that they’re playing in Super Bowl LVII in Arizona next February.
“It was a great learning experience,” Burton continued. “The type of guys and coaches that we have in this organization – in this culture – (they) understand that we can do better and we can finish. We’ve taken that to heart this offseason. Guys have been working extremely hard to make sure that we’re on top of every single detail, to make sure that the game is finished and we’re playing in the Super Bowl.”
One of the challenges every year in the NFL is that rosters are rarely left intact. Only seven players who were starters in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers remain on the Chiefs’ roster this offseason. There is a newness to the group of players who will be out there in 2022. How can all of the new guys in the locker possibly understand the expectations and what it’ll take to compete and win a Lombardi Trophy?
Well, Burton had a unique perspective on that situation because he lived it a season ago.
“I was that new guy last year,” Burton said. “They’d won a Super Bowl (LIV) and they’d been to a Super Bowl (LV), you kind of learn quickly when you get there that the culture is – this is a championship mentality every time you step foot in the building. (The Super Bowl) is the expectation, and you kind of have to fall in line. If you don’t, your time might not last there. Those are the types of guys they want in this organization – championship mindset, mentality guys.”
Beyond the foundation laid by this championship mindset, Burton trusts that the front office is bringing in the right type of guys with the quality of character and work ethic necessary to win. He also knows that all of the new faces will also learn by example, just as he did a year ago in his first season with the Chiefs.
“If you’re coming into that organization, it’s because the coaches and Brett Veach and his staff are bringing the right caliber players that have that mindset,” Burton explained. “Guys that have been here can help explain it or talk to them about what it takes to get there, but it’s also just shown by example. It’s putting in the work every single day. It’s taking the classroom seriously. It’s taking all the phases seriously and just understanding the sacrifice that it takes to be a championship.”
The Chiefs kick off Phase III of the offseason workout program this week, which puts them one step closer to their ultimate goal. The work that the team puts in right now, influenced in many ways by that AFC title game loss, will be pivotal to the outcome of the 2022 NFL season.