A Pan of Deep-Dish From The Windy City


From Chicago, Illinois

It will happen early on Sunday afternoon. Right guard Jon Asamoah will come out of the Chiefs offensive huddle for the first time at Soldier Field. He will put his hand on the ground, look up and there, just a few feet away from him will be his boyhood hero – Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Growing up on Chicago’s south side, Asamoah was a Bears fan, a big Bears fan. “Where I grew up, everybody was a Bears fan, you had to be,” Asamoah said this week as he prepared to play his first game against his hometown team. “With baseball, if you were south side you rooted for the White Sox, and the north side rooted for the Cubs. But everybody rooted for the Bears.

“Growing up and watching them, it was all about being gritty and tough, especially on defense.”

He’s been to handful of Bears games at Soldier Field. “Tickets were expensive and we didn’t buy many of those,” Asamoah said. “There were a couple of times we got in without tickets. There are ways to make that happen.”

Asamoah’s favorite player was No. 54, the middle linebacker and human missle that was and remains Urlacher. Posters on the bedroom wall, football cards on his desk.

“He was my favorite,” said Asamoah. “I just always liked the way he played the game. He was tough and nasty, but he played with smarts.”

And now faced with the idea of blocking him, Asamoah is having another one of those reality moments – he’s now in the NFL.

“It’s going to be surreal,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of family and friends that are going to be there for the game. They are all real pumped and they’ve been talking about it for a long time.

“I’m sure I’ll look across and go ‘wow, there he is.’ Then when the game starts you find out the guys on the other side are human.”

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Javier Arenas has gotten a lot of defensive playing time over the last two weeks. The Chiefs defense has spent a lot of time in schemes with at least five defensive backs on the field, usually more. He was part of the coverage that shutdown Patriots WR Wes Welker and then last Sunday night, Steelers WR Mike Wallace.

“I’ve been called upon to try and stop Welker and I felt like we did a decent job of that,” Arenas said. “The Pittsburgh receivers, I think we did a pretty decent job. There’s a real sense of urgency in doing what we were doing. We had to stop some great passers and I had to raise my game to help this team do that. We are just starting to click. You want to be consistent. That’s what we are working on.”

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Not only is Bill Muir the Chiefs offensive coordinator, he’s also the offensive line coach, and his analysis of recently waived Jared Gaither left little doubt why he was released this week.

“It was pretty clear cut, even though technically he was 100 percent physically,” Muir said. “But I didn’t see that as the offensive line coach/offensive coordinator. I didn’t see the physicalness or the explosiveness he had when he played in Baltimore. There were other circumstances involved. It was a tactical decision that we made.”

Gaither was claimed off waivers by San Diego.

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The decision to waive Gaither and subsequent moves has the Chiefs going into Sunday’s game with probably the least experience group of backup offensive linemen in the league. Steve Maneri, Rodney Hudson and David Mims have a combined one NFL start and really only two games of offensive experience.

But that does not bother Muir. “Obviously you would like a little more experience, but we like the progress they’ve been making,” he said.

Maneri is the former college tight end who landed with the Patriots and then moved on to the Chiefs. “He’s a very good athlete, he’s got very good feet, he’s a tenacious fellow,” Muir said. “What he lacks is game experience. At some point in time, you have to make a decision, and at this point the comparison at the position potential with experience. The athleticism and temperament that he’s shown has been encouraging.”

Rookie free agent Mims is coming out of Virginia Union University on the Division II level and he remains raw as raw.

“At this point he’s still in that developmental stage, not ready for prime time,” Muir said. “But the progress he’s made has been encouraging and I see a future for him in the National Football League as a tackle. It’s an ongoing work.”

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Todd Haley grew up around one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Early in his coaching career, he had the chance to spend three years coaching with another one of the league’s iconic teams the Chicago Bears.

“Having Virginia McCaskey around was really neat and to know kind of what she had seen and heard growing up and being around there,” Haley said of the only surviving child of George Halas. “She was a sweet, sweet lady. There is a history and a mentality there with Chicago that really in my opinion has not changed through the years either. Generally they are going to play good defense, they are going to have a really good middle linebacker that you add up the years, the three that I’m thinking of anyway that have played, there’s pretty good visual there of how they play and then offensively you’re going to count on running the football.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less. It was a great three years, our family enjoyed it and we have good friends that are still there on and off the team so it was a great, great experience. We had a little bit of success and really enjoyed it, looking forward to going back.”

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