The Latest Travis Kelce–Related Story Suggests Distraction Isn’t an Issue

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While the 2023 NFL regular season isn’t over just yet, it’s safe to assume that Travis Kelce’s stats will have regressed by the time Week 18 is in the books. Roughly 1,000 receiving yards isn’t anything to sneeze at, especially for a tight end, but the Kansas City Chiefs star has set extremely high standards for himself. And, like it or not, this year hasn’t been his best.


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Given Kelce’s high profile (and his high-profile relationship with Taylor Swift), there’s been plenty of discussion about his on-field performances. Is he getting old? Are the Chiefs’ collective struggles affecting him? Or, in a rather serious accusation within sporting circles, has he gotten distracted by things other than football? Well, if you take a New York Times story about his agents at its word, then KC fans can breathe a bit easier. Distraction, it seems, isn’t part of Kelce’s vocabulary.

Focused on Football During the Season
During the 2023 NFL season, Kelce was everywhere. Beyond his normal engagements as a member of the Chiefs, the tight end hit the airwaves weekly on the New Heights podcast. Commercials also brought No. 87 further into the spotlight, as did his relationship with Swift.

Given some comparatively poor performances—the tight end is still nearing 1,000 receiving yards for the season, but his receiving yards, catches, touchdowns, yards after the catch and broken tackles have all fallen on a per-game level—it’s been suggested that he’s focusing on things other than football. Earlier in the year, Shannon Sharpe criticized Kelce for taking in a World Series game a few days before taking the field. More recently, Skip Bayless wondered if Swift was becoming a distraction to the Chiefs during their late-season slump. And some on social media have wondered if there have simply been too many off-field engagements pulling his focus away from football.



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But Tuesday’s Times story about Kelce’s co-managers, Aaron and André Eanes, suggested that the tight end has a firm grip on his responsibilities. “Mr. Kelce’s managers have a window of time between the ending of the Super Bowl in February and the beginning of training camp in July in which their plan for the Kelce brand must unfold,” Zach Schonbrun wrote. “Once the season starts, Mr. Kelce manifests what he wants on his own.”

And while that could suggest some ambiguity—who’s to say that the tight end can’t manifest something unrelated to football—a photo caption did tie things in a neater bow. “During the off-season, Mr. Kelce is hands-on with the various projects that the Eanes brothers set up for him. Once the season begins, he focuses on football,” it read.

That seems to speak directly to the idea that the tight end has been too focused on commercials (or his new relationship) during the Chiefs’ 2023 campaign. And there’s also the suggestion that Kelce hasn’t been changed by his celebrity status. There, we hear about a unique workout while traveling abroad. “Mr. Skacel [the tight end’s trainer] likes to share the story of a visit to Paris Fashion Week a few years ago, when he and Mr. Kelce took a late-night jog around the city because Mr.

Kelce was antsy for a workout after an entire day of sitting by the runway,” Schonbrun wrote. “‘It’s midnight, and we’re doing sprints over the bridges over the river,’ Mr. Skacel said. ‘No matter where he is, he finds time to get done whatever he needs to get done.'”


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Again, there’s room to poke a slight hole. If that unfolded a few years ago, Kelce was potentially younger, hungrier and less distracted. It’s one thing to run sprints in Paris by yourself. It’s another to (theoretically) leave Taylor Swift on the couch to hit the weights. On the whole, though, those parts of the article paint a picture of a rather professional Kelce. While he has plenty on his plate, the tight end isn’t going to let extracurricular activities distract from his NFL efforts.

And when you combine everything, from both the Times story and the NFL landscape, it doesn’t seem like distraction is the issue here. To put things simply, this isn’t Kelce’s first rodeo. The tight end has been a pro since 2013 and has been a part of the Chiefs’ rise to national prominence. He previously starred in his own reality show, and New Heights didn’t debut this fall.

Has his stardom reached a new level recently? Of course. But it’s not as if he just stepped into the spotlight and was immediately overawed by the options before him. He’s a veteran who knows what he needs to do to ensure peak performance, even during a European vacation. And, if you want to continue with a vein of cynicism, consider how on-field success relates to overall celebrity. If Kelce and his camp are considering moving further into mainstream culture, falling off an NFL cliff probably wouldn’t be ideal. Even if No. 87 already has a Hall of Fame résumé, it’s not a great look to reach a new level of celebrity and then start mailing it in.


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Or, to put it more directly: being so distracted that his on-field performances suffer probably isn’t good for any form of business. And if you accept the Occam’s razor idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely one, there are some easier places to look for the source of Kelce’s comparative struggles. The tight end is, like it or not, getting older. He suffered a knee injury on the eve of the regular season and admitted that he thinks about retirement. Even if he’s an elite athlete, it’s possible that he’s lost a step.

The Chiefs’ offense has also struggled, primarily because of the lack of a secondary pass catcher. You might think that Kelce would be unaffected as the team’s top option, but there isn’t anyone to draw attention away from No. 87. He’s facing double-teams and bracketed coverage, making everything that much tougher. And when you combine those factors, it’s a recipe for a tough time. If you’re getting older and potentially losing a step, facing more concentrated defensive attention will only make it harder to overcome those limitations.

Ultimately, only Kelce knows how distracted he was this year. But the current situation in KC, combined with the Times piece, suggests that focus wasn’t the underlying issue. And put it this way: If this was the tight end during a down year, his newfound celebrity status is the least of the Chiefs’ problems.