DAVE SKRETTA,AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eric Fisher started the long drive from his family’s home in Michigan to join the Kansas City Chiefs in training camp a couple of days ago. The only problem: He hadn’t signed a contract.
So he hung out in a motel somewhere in Iowa — he wouldn’t say where — while his agent put the finishing touches on his deal. On Friday, Fisher finally got the go-ahead to join his new team at Missouri Western State University for the official start to his professional career.
The No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Fisher reached agreement on a five-year contract in the range of $22 million, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because terms were not disclosed.
“I’m happy to be here and happy to get to work,” said Fisher, who arrived at training camp in time to pass a conditioning test and participate in the first full-squad workout.
“I just wanted to get the deal done,” he said.
Fisher was diligent in attending the Chiefs’ entire offseason program, even though he hadn’t signed a contract. But he was absent from three days of rookie practice in St. Joseph, Mo., before joining the rest of the team in camp for Friday’s public workout.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he wasn’t concerned that Fisher wouldn’t get to camp, but still expressed a sense of relief to have the big offensive tackle in the fold.
“I think it worked out well for Fish, and at the same time, it’s good for our organization,” Reid said. “Heck, he’s a good football player, and we wanted him in here. We didn’t want him to miss any reps, and he was able to do that.
“Until the fish is in the boat, you don’t count it caught, right? That’s how it works.”
Fisher and another tackle, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, were widely considered the top offensive linemen available in this year’s draft. The Chiefs opted to nab Fisher with the first No. 1 pick in franchise history, securing a bookend tackle for new quarterback Alex Smith.
While he may not be as polished as Joeckel, who went second overall to Jacksonville, Fisher is considered to be more athletic and the Chiefs believe he has a greater upside.
“When you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re signing for more than one year, and you want both sides to be happy and content,” said Smith, who was the No. 1 overall pick of San Francisco in 2005.
“It’s also important to get in here,” Smith said. “When you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re probably not going to be sitting for long, you know? In Eric’s case, he’s not at all.”
Most scouts project Fisher as a future left tackle, but the 6-foot-7, 306-pounder will start off on the right side because the Chiefs opted to give veteran Branden Albert the franchise tag.
Albert will play this season under a one-year deal worth about $9.3 million, but his future beyond that is uncertain. The Chiefs have expressed interest in signing him to a long-term deal, but the two sides have so far been unable to close a wide gap in negotiations.
That means that Fisher could eventually replace Albert in protecting Smith’s blind side.
“I just try to play football. I know how to play football, and do what I’ve done the last four years, because that’s what has gotten me here,” Fisher said during offseason workouts.
“I’m just trying to play offensive line,” he said. “I really love everything that comes with it. It’s a different territory in there. It’s a very similar system to what I ran in college.”
Notes: WR Dwayne Bowe did not participate in practice due to a virus. Reid wouldn’t say when Bowe will participate, but he doesn’t believe the setback will have much impact. “I think he’s going to be back pretty quick,” Reid said. … The Chiefs signed CB Conroy Black, who was an undrafted free agent when he signed with the Oakland Raiders in May 2012. He was added to the Detroit Lions practice squad roster last fall, and released in May. … The team has now signed all eight draft selections from the 2013 draft class.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.