The latest running back joining the Kansas City practice squad brings a legacy of the AFC West with him to the Chiefs, although that history includes a lot of silver and black.
“I definitely got love for Raider nation because they definitely had my back during my whole career there,” said George Atkinson, the former Oakland Raiders running back who signed with the Chiefs practice squad this week. “I’m sad that when I’m going against them that they’re going to be going against me. It’s a blessing to play against my old teammates. Having the opportunity to do that, you can’t ask for nothing more.
Atkinson’s father, George “Butch” Atkinson, spent 11 seasons in the NFL, 10 with the Raiders and his last season with the Denver Broncos. He was a two-time American Football League all-star and played on Oakland’s 1977 Super Bowl championship team. He continues working with the Raiders broadcast team, doing pre- and post-game commentary.
Despite his family’s deep ties to the Raiders, Atkinson has zero misgivings pulling on Chiefs red.
“It wasn’t hard at all, it was easy for me,” he said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity for sure.”
The younger Atkinson says growing up around the NFL game shaped his competitive instincts.
“I remember as a kid going to training camp with the Raiders and watching all these guys – (Darren) McFadden, Randy Moss when he was there,” Atkinson said. “There’s a lot of guys coming out of there. Just to see what it takes at this level, it was a blessing having him (as a father).”
Atkinson Chiefs’ jersey bears his father’s number, No. 43, which holds special meaning to him.
“It does (mean a lot) to represent not just my name on my back but you know my dad played 11 seasons in the league, so to represent his number is definitely an honor to me,” he said.
Atkinson said his father teaching him a professional work ethic helps the most as he continues pursuing his own NFL dream.
“You can’t make the same mistakes twice,” Atkinson said. “That was one thing he harped on me coming into the league. Just pride in yourself and your work and how you prepare for each game and each week.”
Atkinson signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame in 2014. He played five games as a rookie, mostly on special teams. He spent most of the 2015 on the team’s practice squad.
The Raiders cut Atkinson following the 2016 preseason and the Browns claimed him off waivers. He played all 16 games for the Browns last season, racking up 227 snaps on special teams. He also rushed seven times for 24 yards and a touchdown in 22 offensive snaps.
The Browns waived Atkinson in July and he returned to Oakland on waivers and spent training camp and the preseason with the team. The Raiders cut Atkinson before the start of the regular season.
His 6-foot-1, 218-pound frame makes it evident why Atkinson excels on special teams. It also belies his quick feet and blazing speed that powered him to a third-place finish in the 200-meters final of the Big East Conference 2012 indoor track championships.
“I pride myself on that,” Atkinson said. “It’s something I can definitely bring to the table and something I utilize on the field.”
Atkinson says he’s grateful for the opportunity to prove himself in Kansas City. His addition brings a blend of physical play and experience in a young Chiefs running back room.
“I know coming in probably special teams and just being ready when my name gets called,” Atkinson said. “The position of running back is learning the offense and staying ready and pushing the guys, creating great competition in the room.”