Talk to the Chiefs players who sat through Todd Haley’s first team meeting last Monday, and there’s one thing they all seemed to carry out of the room.
They were the words, “Everyone has a clean slate.”
Those outside the building figured those words were sent in the direction of running back Larry Johnson, who sat in the meeting. Johnson’s off-field problems and his long laundry list of incidents and situations needed a clean slate.
But everyone in the room seems to have taken those words to heart; especially every player returning from last year’s 2-14 debacle.
A clean slate means they don’t have to carry the wounds of that long season on their shoulders.
“I took what he said that day as meaning our season started at that moment,” said second-year cornerback Brandon Carr. “It was going to be about what happened going forward, not what happened in the past with the guys in the room.”
Certainly, there are many lessons that came from the 2008 season that should be carried on by those players who were part of the losing. The general manager stepped away and the head coach and more than half of his staff were fired. They paid a price for the losing with their jobs.
But the players were part of the problem last year as well. Few played up to their potential. Several turned in good seasons, but in the most important measure of any team – winning or losing – they were all failures.
Scott Pioli and Haley have driven home the point they are seeking the build the best team, not creating a collection of the 53-best players. Putting together that type of picture begins like any other jigsaw puzzle; the fastest way to the finish is to get the frame of the puzzle together.
That’s what began last week with the start of the strength and conditioning program. The framework is coming together to give the players an idea of what’s to come and how things are going to be different.
It will roll through the team’s three-day mini-camp for veteran players April 17-18-19, and on through OTA sessions, a rookie mini-camp and then a mandatory mini-camp for everyone in June.
The best way for the process to begin was for Haley is to get everybody on the same page. The simplest method was to put everybody at the same starting point, i.e. “Everyone has a clean slate.”
“I don’t think it’s like we are supposed to forget what happened last year,” said second-year cornerback Brandon Flowers. “I think it’s about not letting it get in our way as we get ready for this year. Everything is new, so there’s no reason to hold onto the past.”
Said veteran safety Jon McGraw: “I think his point was they are starting our evaluations now, and they will make decisions based on what they see, starting with this off-season program. The past is the past, either doesn’t help us or hurt us. It’s about what happens now.”
Veteran Bobby Engram said Haley made a clear and concise presentation last week that left little doubt about what’s to come for this team.
“I think that Todd did a good job the other day in the team meeting of stating, ‘I don’t care if you are a draft pick, I don’t care whether you are a free agent, I don’t care what your situation is or how you got into this room, you are a Kansas City Chief now and our number one goal is to win games and the only way we can do that is together’,” said Engram.
“I just know from Todd’s history and he is going to hold you accountable. He is going to be a tough guy, but I think he is going to be fair. He is going to set some high standards and some high goals, we just have to work hard individually and collectively as a team to try and meet those.”
What Haley did was draw a new starting line for the 2009 Chiefs, but especially those members of the 2008 Chiefs who are still in the house. The point is simple: there’s no going backwards. Everything must be done to move forward.
And a player can’t move forward if he’s wrapped up in what happened in the past.
CASSEL & VRABEL UPDATES FROM THEIR OLD HOME
Two items from the Boston Globe on new Chiefs Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel
Cassel will wear No. 7 and he picked that number for several reasons. First, he wanted to pay homage to Ken O’Brien, who coached him early in his career at Southern Cal. O’Brien was one of the six first-round quarterbacks selected in the 1983 NFL Draft and wore No. 7 with the New York Jets for 10 seasons (1983-92.) Also, Cassel figured that adding the 1 and 6 from his old number 16 came to 7.
As for Vrabel, there was speculation in New England that his exit to the Chiefs in the trade with Cassel came because of critical comments the linebacker about NFL owners’ cries of financial difficulty. He made the comments back in November to the Boston Herald.
Vrabel said in the Herald piece that projects like Patriot Place, the outdoor retail and entertainment venue adjacent to Gillette Stadium that was constructed by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, are built on the backs of the players, who don’t get any of the revenue from them.
Kraft said Vrabel’s critical comments had nothing to do with the linebacker’s departure.
“Mike Vrabel actually is one of my favorite players coming through the system,” Kraft told the Globe. “I think at this point it was a football decision to where his future was best, where he could bring the most value at this stage of his career. I was sorry to see him go. It was a football decision.”
ROSTER MOVES AND SIGNINGS
TEXANS – signed LB Cato June (Tampa Bay) and LB Buster Davis (Indianapolis).
RAMS – signed QB Kyle Boller (St. Louis).
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on April 6, 1973 in San Diego was LB Donnie Edwards. He played eight of his 13 NFL seasons with the Chiefs (1006-01, 2007-08) after being the team’s fourth-round selection in the 1996 NFL Draft out of UCLA. He spent five seasons with the San Diego Chargers between his stints in Kansas City. In his 13 seasons, he played in 197 games. With the Chiefs, Edwards played in 117 games with 100 starts. Overall he has 1,649 tackles in his career with 24 sacks and 28 interceptions.
Born on April 6, 1955 in Tallahassee, Florida was NT Don Parrish. He joined the Chiefs as a college free agent out of Pitt in 1978. Parrish played five seasons in Kansas City (1978-82), appearing in 71 games with 51 starts.