The first practices of the Pioli/Haley Era went down over the weekend at the Chiefs facility in the Truman Sports Complex.
Five sessions in three days, with three of those held inside because of the rainy weekend in Kansas City.
There was great anticipation on the part of many for this work. But what little the new regime was willing to allow outsiders to see looked a lot like the practices held on the fields by many coaches before them.
Let’s say the only noticeable difference was it was a tidy work environment. Only players, coaches and support staff were allowed on the field. That would be trainers, equipment guys and those from the video department. The only person who didn’t fall into that category was Pioli, who watched the work up close and personal and took notes.
But football practice is football practice, and there really isn’t much different that gets done, especially when the players are not wearing pads. They push, they shove, they run, they jump, but it doesn’t become football until everybody is wearing the shoulder pads and even minimal contact is encouraged.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to learn, especially for the players and the coaches. This was the first time Haley’s staff worked together on the practice field, so there were logistical issues to handle. And the players had to get a taste of the style of Haley and his staff. They want up tempo practices, just as most coaching staffs do these days. But there are different ways to handle that.
All in all, it was a time for education. And yes, I’m sure a little evaluation. Haley said this weekend wasn’t about looking at players and making decisions. “I told the players that you’re not going to make the team or not make the team this weekend,” Haley said. “You’ve got a better chance of making the team lifting and running the way we want it done.”
However, Pioli/Haley are evaluating everything and everyone involved with the Chiefs operation on a 24/7 basis. That’s what new regimes do. They are intent on setting up their way of doing things and they want it done yesterday.
So that began on the field this past weekend. There’s more to come. Next up is the NFL Draft and Haley allowed that he was starting to feel some “butterflies” as the first round grows closer this coming Saturday.
“What’s coming up it’s what gets your juices flowing,” Haley said. “It’s getting close and it gets more interesting each day.”
Some items, comments and thoughts from the weekend:
NEXT UP ON THE SCHEDULE
The Chiefs will hold a mini-camp for their rookies on the weekend of May 8-9-10. Whether that means only rookies remains to be seen. Last year, the Chiefs rookie camp didn’t even include draft picks and was more of a tryout weekend.
The team’s mandatory mini-camp will come on the weekend of June 4-5-6.
BEST QUOTE OF THE CAMP
It came from Haley, when he was asked if he got the sense the Chiefs players were tired of losing. He said:
“I don’t think there’s an NFL player out there that doesn’t want to win. Now, there’s some that don’t want to do what it takes to win, that they’d rather be doing something else when the other guys are working together and trying to build the foundation. That’s what is really going on and what I believe in my heart of hearts and the way that I’ve seen it work. That is, this time of year is for getting in condition and getting strong and building the foundation of your team. A lot of things occur in these hours spent in the weight room and out on the turf running and sweating together. Relationships start to form and a bond starts to happen. If you’re not here it can’t happen.”
CASSEL EXPLAINS NO. 7
QB Matt Cassel wore No. 16 with New England. That number is retired in Kansas City thanks to the Hall of Fame career of Len Dawson.
Cassel picked No. 7. Why?
“6 plus 1,” the quarterback said.
HALEY EXPLAINS HELMETS WITH NO ARROWHEADS
The Chiefs worked the whole weekend in red helmets without the distinctive KC arrowhead logo on each side. This is something that Bill Parcells did for years and in Dallas the players knew they had to earn the star on their helmet.
“”Everything I’m doing I’m doing with a purpose,” said Haley. “The thought process there is we’re starting at ground zero. We’re looking for guys who want to be Chiefs.”
SO WHAT DEFENSE ARE THEY GOING TO PLAY?
Everybody has been wrapped up on the Chiefs switching to a 3-4 on defense, but Haley is unwilling to commit to that. Ultimately, the Chiefs are going to play the 4-3, the 3-4 and a bunch of hybrids that combine elements of the schemes. It figures to be a versatile attack.
In the brief times that the Chiefs practices were open to the media, the team was running through position drills and there was no chance to see the defense together as a whole.
Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie had a small group with him in the practices, with just five guys working as defensive linemen: Ron Edwards, Wallace Gilberry, Brian Johnston, Derek Lokey and Tank Tyler.
Working with linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and defensive quality control assistant Pat Perles were Tamba Hali, Turk McBride and Andy Studebaker.
In one session, it looked like the middle/inside linebackers working together were Corey Mays, Demorrio Williams, Zach Thomas, Derrick Johnson and Wes Dacus. Working together on what looked outside linebacker drills with Hali, McBride and Studebaker were Monty Beisel, Curtis Gatewood and Darrell Robertson.
OFFENSIVE LINE NOTES
With Brian Waters not in attendance, the Chiefs No. 1 offensive line looked like this during the camp: LT-Branden Albert, LG-Wade Smith, C-Rudy Niswanger, RG-Mike Goff and RT-Damion McIntosh.
The No. 2 offensive line was: LT-Andrew Carnahan, LG-Tavares Washington, C-Brian De La Puente, RG-Edwin Harrison and RT-Barry Richardson.
Starting last year, Chiefs players have been schooled to provide little information to the media about their injuries. Heaven knows why it would be a problem at this time of the year, but that’s the world of today’s football.
Still we learned a few things. McBride is coming off surgery on his shoulder and said he was about 80 percent. He hopes to be able to practice full-speed at the June mini-camp. Johnston is completely recovered from his calf injury that sent him to the IR last year and he took a full load in practice. CB Maurice Leggett would only say he was doing “OK” coming off a shoulder injury cut short his rookie season. Like McBride, he did individual drills but no team work in the camp.
Just because a player wasn’t able to practice didn’t mean they didn’t get a workout during the sessions. In another Parcells touch, stationary bikes were stationed in the corner of the indoor practice facility and those players who are rehabbing spent time on those bikes under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith.
In that group were QB Brodie Croyle (knee), RB Kolby Smith (knee), DT Glenn Dorsey (leg), DT T.J. Jackson (knee) and DT-DE Alfonso Boone, who was bothered at the end of last season by what was called a thigh injury.
Players have already come to understand that the bike patrol is no picnic.
“You don’t want any part of those bikes,” McBride allowed.
The Chiefs had a pair of kickers in for the camp: Carlos Martinez and Mark Myers.
“We are still evaluating that,” Haley said when asked if they were going to sign one or both of the kickers. “We are trying to see as many guys as we can.”
Both kickers have had cups of coffee in the NFL, with the left-footed Martinez having kicked in the Arena League and Myers in Canada.
Also in for workouts over the weekend (they did not take part in the camp) were veteran NFL receiver Marty Booker and tight ends Sean Ryan and Tony Curtis. All have a connection to Haley, as he coached Booker with the Bears back in 2001-003 and Ryan and Curtis both came into the NFL through the Cowboys in 2004-05, when Haley was coaching there. Booker was with the Bears last year, Ryan with San Francisco and Curtis in Dallas.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on April 20, 1945 in Chicago was RB Theotis Brown. He joined the Chiefs in 1983 from the Seattle Seahawks and played two seasons (1983-84), appearing in 26 games with 16 starts. In that ‘83 season, Brown had 1,197 all-purpose yards (running, receiving, passing and returning). Brown suffered a heart attack in 1985 that ended his playing career.
Born on April 20, 1971 in Nowata, Oklahoma was WR Chris Penn. He joined the Chiefs as a third-round choice in the 1994 NFL Draft out of the University of Tulsa. Penn played three seasons with the Chiefs (1994-96), appearing in 26 games with 16 starts.
Born on April 20, 1964 in Hartford was K John Carney. He joined the Chiefs during the 2007 season and hit three field goals. Last year, Carney put in his 21st season of kicking in the NFL with the New York Giants. He’s also kicked for Tampa Bay, San Diego, New Orleans and Jacksonville.
And born on April 2, 1949 in New York was DE Wilbur Young. He joined the Chiefs as a second-round selection in the 1971 NFL Draft out of William Penn in Iowa. Young appeared in 94 games over seven seasons (1971-77) with 70 starts on the Chiefs defensive line. He finished his career with five seasons in San Diego.