Winter arrived in Kansas City on Wednesday. Temperatures were in the 30s, with the wind blowing from the north-northwest, gusting at times to 20 mph. That pushed the wind chill down into the 20s.
But there were the Chiefs, a perfectly good – and heated – practice facility sitting empty as they practiced in the winter conditions.
And, there was there head coach Todd Haley, not a child of the beaches of southern California or the hot house of Florida, but of western Pennsylvania where it gets plenty cold, walking around during the nearly two-hour practice wearing shorts.
“Coach is one tough guy,” said RB Jamaal Charles, a child of Port Arthur, Texas, who admitted that he went out to practice on Wednesday with short sleeves and had to run back into the building and put on a long sleeve sweatshirt underneath his shoulder pads.
‘I couldn’t take it; too cold. That coach … one tough dude.”
Tough is a word that some would use. Crazy is another, like some permafrost has affected his brain.
“He looked cold out there,” said DE Tyson Jackson. “I don’t think there’s any doubt he was. Everybody was.”
Jackson says this as he’s peeling off three layers of shirts and long leggings that got him through the practice. For a young man born and raised in Louisiana, it was the coldest couple hours of football in his life.
“Never had anything like that,” said Jackson. “It was pretty bad at first, but after awhile you get moving around and you don’t feel it so much. But it was cold.”
A couple lockers away, fellow rookie DE Alex Magee snorted. “That was nothing,” Magee said. “It wasn’t snowing, or raining. It was just cold.”
It’s all about perspective. For a child of the bayou, feel-like temperatures in the 20s are a new experience. For a guy like Magee, who played at Purdue, this was just the kind of practice you can have from Halloween to New Year’s Day. “Oh yeah, we had much worse up there,” Magee said of West Lafayette, Indiana.
Like so many things with Haley, the shorts he was wearing and the practice he was conducting were done for a reason. They are all part of his campaign to build a tough team, both physically and mentally.
On Wednesday, the Chiefs showed some of their physical toughness. Despite the weather conditions, all 61 players who were allowed to practice were on the field. That’s the 53-man active roster and the eight-man practice squad. Nobody was missing. No player suddenly strained a muscle so he could go inside. It was cold, they were in full pads and there’s very little a pro football player hates more than to practice in the cold and wearing full pads in December.
For this time of year, and with a team that is 3-8 on the season, it speaks to Haley’s ability to reach these players and create the mentally he thinks is important to be a successful team.
“It was like guys are looking for ways in and that’s what I’m concerned about and encouraged about,” said Haley. “We had a full padded practice today. There was plenty of hitting and I think those are good things for us.”
“The record doesn’t show it but we’ve got a bunch of guys that want to be part of this and want to be part of becoming something special as we move forward. I think a day like that is an indicator. I think an indicator is the game last week where the guys continued to fight to the end and were passionate about it. They’re on each other and pushing each other.
“As hard as it is to say it with where we’re at, I think we’re making progress.”
Now don’t take the full participation in Wednesday’s workout to mean the Chiefs don’t have hurting players. They’ve got a bunch of them and have had all season. After six weeks of training camp and pre-season and then 11 games in 12 weeks, knees, ankles, shoulders, hips, wrists, elbows – anywhere where the body bends or pivots – is hurting and needs treatment or special attention. Those aches and pains feel worse in the cold.
Football-wise, there was nothing the Chiefs got done outside on Wednesday that they couldn’t have done inside their practice facility.
“Just trying to create the mentality that I want this team to have,” Haley explained. “(That would be) a mentally tough group that not much can bother, not much from the outside and not much when they’re lining up on Sunday can bother. I want a team that can overcome bad, difficult times. I think you can only get that by doing some of these things and guys learning how to fight through and not being given an easy way out. Over time, that will pay dividends for the guys on this team.”
OK, but what’s the story with the shorts? Former coach Herm Edwards wore a sweatshirt with an NFL logo to every practice, whether it was 20 degrees or 100 degrees. For Haley, if the team is outside, he’s going to be in shorts. On Wednesday, he came in from practice and pulled on a pair of sweatpants to do his daily media briefing.
“I’ve just got a long streak going with wearing shorts that I have to keep alive,” Haley said. “I made it through three years in Chicago which started on a bet when we were outside in zero degrees. When I was a receivers coach with the Bears I didn’t want my receivers wearing sleeves in games. They said, ‘well, that’s easy for you say.’ So I said I’d wear shorts every day and I won’t wear a jacket on Sunday. I won the bet and they went sleeveless in games. We had a pretty tough-minded group of receivers.”
With all five of their remaining games in wintery sites (Kansas City, Cincinnati and Denver), there’s no question the Chiefs will see some cold weather, some snow, maybe some freezing rain. They will have practiced in all those types of weather.
“It’s a mental thing and it’s a physical thing too,” Charles said. “It’s going to be cold when the real time comes. This is practice, so you have to suck it up and get ready for when it gets cold outside. It was cold out there today and I wanted to come in, but I had to fight it off.”
As far as Jamaal Charles is concerned, nothing will be worse than what he played in last December when the Dolphins came to Arrowhead. With a game-time temperature of 10 degrees and a wind-chill factor of minus-12, the Chiefs lost 38-31. Charles caught three passes that day for 102 yards. It’s considered the second coldest game in Arrowhead history.
“That was bad,” Charles said. “Man that was cold.”
NFL SENDS DOWN NEW RULES ON DEALING WITH CONCUSSIONS
All the attention on the effects of concussions on NFL players both during and after their careers has lifted the curtain on the subject. On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent the 32 teams a letter with new procedures for when a player can return to the field when he sustains a concussion.
The new procedures state that a player who suffers a concussion should not return to play or practice on the same day if he shows any signs or symptoms of a concussion. It reads:
“Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant. A critical element of managing concussions is candid reporting by players of their symptoms following an injury. Accordingly, players are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion.”
“The evidence demonstrates that team medical staffs have been addressing concussions in an increasingly cautious and conservative way,” Goodell said in the letter. “This new return-to-play statement reinforces our commitment to advancing player safety.
“Along with improved equipment, better education, and rules changes designed to reduce impacts to the head, it will make our game safer for the men who play it, and set an important example for players at all levels of play.”
SIGNINGS, INJURIES, HONORS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
- AFC – named Titans QB Vince Young as the offensive player of the week, Jets CB Darrelle Revis as the defensive player of the week and Broncos K Matt Prater as the special teams player of the week.
- NFC – named Saints QB Drew Brees as the offensive player of the week, Packers CB Charles Woodson as defensive player of the week and Cardinals rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling as special teams player of the week.
- BEARS – placed LB Pisa Tinoisamoa on the injured-reserve list.
- BILLS – ruled out of Thursday night’s game against the Jets are OT Demetrius Bell, DT John McCargo and CB Ashton Youboty.
- BROWNS – placed RB Jamal Lewis and S Brodney Pool on the injured-reserve list; promoted DT Brian Schaefering from the practice squad.
- COLTS – promoted DE Ervin Baldwin and RB Mike Hart from the practice squad.
- JETS – Out of Thursday night’s game against the Bills are CBs Dwight Lowery and Donald Strickland and G Robert Turner; promoted TE Matthew Mulligan from the practice squad.
- STEELERS – claimed CB Anthony Madison on waivers (Packers); released CB Corey Ivy.
FROM THE PAGES OF CHIEFS HISTORY
On December 3, 1961 the Dallas Texans lost to the New York Titans 28-7 before 14,117 fans at the Polo Grounds in New York. The Titans had a 14-0 lead at half-time and never trailed, pushing it to 21-0 before the Texans finally scored, on a six-yard pass from QB Cotton Davidson and RB Bo Dickinson. QB Al Dorow was the star for New York, throwing a seven-yard TD pass to WR Art Powell (left) and running himself for a 40-yard touchdown. The Texans turned the ball over seven times, as Davidson threw four interceptions and they had three fumbles. RB Abner Haynes caught six passes for 127 yards and WR Chris Burford had three catches for 105 yards.
On December 3, 1967, the Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills 23-13 before a crowd of 41,948 at Municipal Stadium. Tied at 13-13 going into the fourth quarter, the Chiefs scored 10 points to gain the victory. QB Len Dawson hooked up with WR Otis Taylor on a 34-yard touchdown pass and K Jan Stenerud added a 20-yard FG. The Chiefs early touchdown had come on a three-yard run by FB Gene Thomas, and Stenerud had two other field goals. Taylor finished with six catches for 86 yards. The KC defense picked off three passes by Bills QB Jack Kemp, including two by DB Fletcher Smith. LB Jim Lynch had the other interception.
On December 3, 1972, the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 24-21 in front of a crowd of 66,725 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. Down 14-10 at half-time, the Chiefs scored a pair of third quarter touchdowns to take the lead and ultimately the victory. The KC defense contributed two touchdowns, as SS Jim Kearney returned an interception 29 yards for a score and LB Bobby Bell ran 61 yards for a TD on a pass he swiped from Denver QB Charlie Johnson (right). RB Ed Podolak had a one-yard run and K Jan Stenerud kicked a 41-yard FG.
On December 3, 1978, the Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills 14-10 before a crowd of 25,781 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs got on the scoreboard first with a 17-yard TD run by RB Ted McKnight. Later they got a three-yard scoring pass from QB Mike Livingston to TE Walter White. The Kansas City defense picked off Buffalo QB Joe Ferguson three times, as S Gary Barbaro and LBs Thomas Howard and Whitney Paul all had picks. Bills WR Frank Lewis caught seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
On December 3 1989, the Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins 26-21 in front of 54,610 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs led 19-7 going into the fourth quarter and survived a late Dolphins rally, as Miami QB Dan Marino (left) threw three touchdown passes in the game. Chiefs QB Steve DeBerg threw a pair of TD passes himself, connecting on a 38-yard play with WR Stephone Paige and an eight-yard pass with RB Herman Heard. RB Christian Okoye had a three-yard TD run and K Nick Lowery kicked a pair of FGs. Okoye finished with 148 yards on 323 carries, while Paige caught seven passes for 133 yards. CB Albert Lewis had an interception.
On December 3, 1995, the Chiefs beat the Raiders 29-23 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. On the first return to Oakland to play the Raiders in 14 years, the Chiefs were able to survive a late Raiders rally for the victory. RB Marcus Allen finished with 157 offensive yards, including a 124 rushing yards on 21 carries with a one-yard TD run. The Chiefs had offensive TDs from QB Rich Gannon on a 12-yard run and FB Kimble Anders on a 23-yard run. S Brian Washington returned an interception of QB Vince Evans 74 yards for a TD. The Chiefs defense held the Raiders to eight yards rushing on 11 carries. Besides Washington, CB James Hasty had an interception. The pass rush had four sacks produced by LB Derrick Thomas, DE Neil Smith, DT Dan Saleaumua and DE Darren Mickell.