From the Truman Sports Complex
It was just over a dozen years ago that Todd Haley drew the ire of Bill Belichick.
It was 1997 and Haley was in his first season of coaching, working as the offensive quality control coach on Bill Parcells staff with the New York Jets. Part of Haley’s duties each week during the season was preparing the diagrams of opponent’s plays for the offensive scout team to use against the New York defense, whose coordinator was Belichick.
The plays are printed on cardboard cards and shown to the practice offense before they ran each play.
“I was running cards, coaching the show team receivers and Belichick would scream at me for having a play one-yard out of line on the cards,” Haley said. “At that time I had no idea. I said ‘Why is this guy being a jerk to me? I’m trying my best.’ Now I understand … now I know how important those details are. That’s how you learn all that.”
Jump ahead 13 years to the Chiefs indoor practice facility on a rainy Tuesday in June where the Chiefs are in the midst of another OTA practice session. The offense is running plays against the defense and Haley sees something is not right. He stops the quarterback who is calling the signals and walks towards the receiver on the far right of the formation.
His voice doesn’t cover the 50 yards to where the media horde is watching the practice, but there’s no doubt what he’s doing. He walks over to numbers designating the 50-yard line and marches off four yards to the right. That’s where he wants the receiver to line up and start running his route, exactly four yards to the right of the numbers.
Not three yards, not five yards, but four yards. Somewhere in New England, Belichick is wearing a knowing smile.
“We’re just trying to pass that along,” Haley said with a similar smile.
That’s what this off-season work is all about. There are 14 on-field sessions and a three-day, five-practice mini-camp. The way to make the sessions valuable is to stress the fundamentals, i.e. the little things. The pace is slower at this time of the year. There is no opponent to prepare for each week, no injuries and roster moves from the weekend action to deal with and handle.
It’s the time to work on these important things, the type of details that a coaching staff hopes will become rock solid when the pressure and pace increases during the regular season.
But is it really that much of a difference for the passing game if a receiver is three yards off the numbers instead of four yards? We’ve heard many times that it’s a game of inches, but are those 36 inches that important to completing a pass?
“Spacing in the passing game is so critical to your success and some of these guys are still in the process of really understanding that,” said Haley. “The great receivers understand the areas of the field that are being defensed and then where they have to be in order to maximize opportunity.
“Splits are just one of those factors that are very critical and guys cannot let those little things go. This is the time of year where you can make real progress on some of that and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
So that’s what these OTA sessions are filled with – working on the little things. The core personality of the Chiefs offense and defense are similar in that their weekly game plan during the season is based around what the opponent does and what matchups they can find on either side of the ball to take advantage of in the game.
At this time of the year, there’s no opponent to get ready for each week. That doesn’t mean the coaching staff doesn’t put together plans and plays for teams they’ll face in the fall, specifically that first opponent in the San Diego Chargers.
But the focus is inward, not outward. It’s about preparing players with the understanding of what’s important in making the game plan work whether offense, defense or the kicking game.
What will happen in the five mini-camp practices is a repeat of the process that’s gone down in the OTA practices – the idea is provide a second exposure to the basics, a second run through the process that’s important to the Chiefs coaches.
In the past the mini-camp would have been the highlight of the off-season for the coaching staff and team. But with the OTAs drawing near perfect attendance in the last four weeks, the camp really becomes nothing more than extra OTA sessions. The only real difference is that Haley and his coaches can have two practices a day.
“It does take on not quite the significant role that it did,” said Haley. “But that being said, it is two-a-days. They’ll have to bounce back and be ready to practice again that day. From that standpoint I think it’s important. But as far as the information that they’re getting, it’s a little more of a review for us. The first six or seven OTAs we went through an installation process on all sides of the ball and then we’ll kind of go back through that again in them mini-camp.
“It’s become more of a review from the mental side.”
And a review to make sure the wide receiver split is four yards, not three.
FORMER OFFENSIVE TACKLE WINS CONGRESSIONAL PRIMARY
Jon Runyan moved from the NFL offensive line to the political world and on Tuesday won the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives seat in New Jersey’s Third District.
Runyan spent most of his long career with the Eagles, but finished up last year by playing with the Chargers in the second half of the season.
He’ll face first-team incumbent Jon Adler in the November general election.
CHIEFS HELP SECURE NEW FIELD FOR POLICE ATHLETIC LEAGUE
The Chiefs through the NFL/LISC Grassroots Program helped the Police Athletic League of Kansas City to receive a $100,000 grant to build a new playing field next to the PAL Center at 18th Street and White in Kansas City, Missouri.
The new field w ill host more than 1,100 youths playing flag and tackle football, including students at several nearby schools.
With this new field for the PAL, the Chiefs have now donated or helped connect grants for playing field in the metro area to the tune of $1.98 million.
NFL PERSONNEL FILE/TUESDAY, JUNE 8
- BILLS – signed 7th- round draft choice OL Kyle Calloway to a 4-year, $1,851,000 contract with a signing bonus of $61,000 – he’s been working at RT during Buffalo’s off-season work; released CB Stephan Virgil – he was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Virginia Tech.
- EAGLES – signed 5th-round draft choice DE/OLB Ricky Sapp to a 4-year contract, terms undisclosed – he’s expected to be a hybrid defensive end-outside linebacker in the Philly scheme; signed LB Simoni Lawrence – he was with the Rams earlier in the off-season, but was released on May 25th. He’s out of the University of Minnesota and grew up in the Philadelphia area.
- FALCONS – signed 3rd-round draft choice DT Corey Peters to a 4-year, $2,550,000 contract with a $767,000 signing bonus – out of Kentucky, he’s the second highest draft choice signed so far this season.
- 49ERS – signed OT Matt Kopa to a 2-year contract – an undrafted rookie free agent out of Stanford who suffered a broken foot at the end of the ‘09 season. Kopa was petitioning for a sixth-year of eligibility with the NCAA but dropped that pursuit to sign with San Francisco.
- JETS – disgruntled CB Darrelle Revis returned to the team’s off-season program on Tuesday after missing last week because he’s not happy with his contract. Revis wants to be the highest paid cornerback in the league.
- PANTHERS – RFA LB Thomas Davis signed his tender offer, a 1-year contract for $3,268,000 – he’s recovering from a knee injury and surgery from last season; RFA CB Richard Marshall signed his tender offer, a 1-year contract for $1,759,000 – he’s been practicing with Carolina in the off-season through an injury waiver.
- PATRIOTS – signed 4th-round draft choice TE Aaron Hernandez to a 4-year contract, terms undisclosed – versatile receiver out of the University of Florida is more of a catching tight end than a blocker.
- RAVENS – RFA-SS Dawan Landry signed his tender offer of 1-year contract for $1,759,000 – he’s coming off an 89-tackle season in ‘09 for Baltimore; released DE/OLB Willie VanDeSteeg – he spent last year with the Ravens practice squad as a undrafted free agent out of Minnesota.
- STEELERS – signed LS Matt Stewart to a 1-year contract – he has not played in the NFL since the 2006 season, spending all of ‘07 on the injured-reserve list and he failed to make the roster of the Cardinals in ‘08 and the Cowboys in ‘09.