Cassel Never Had A Doubt About Playing

From the Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis

Each day of last week, Matt Cassel knew one thing for sure – he was going to play Sunday in St. Louis.

The doctors and trainers and Todd Haley and Chiefs fans did not know, and some of those people stood between him and playing. But there was never a doubt in Cassel’s mind that even without his appendix, he was going to play.

“I will say I was a little nervous going into the game, just because for 28 years of my life I played every game with my appendix and today was my first game without,” Cassel told the media horde after the Chiefs 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Some of those media types had their head’s buried in their notebooks and didn’t see the sly smile on Cassel’s face as he spoke.

Cassel made it plain he would give up other useless organs, as long as he could get on the field and play. That’s what went down on Sunday when he was finally given the word that he would be the Chiefs starting quarterback against the Rams.

“In my mind no (there was no doubt that he would play)” Cassel said. “Obviously it wasn’t just my decision. It was the coaches’ evaluation through the week of practice to see where I was at. It was the doctors, it was the trainers. But we were all on the same page going into the game.

“It’s like any other injury – you talk to the doctors, talk to the trainers and they said I was good to go.”

That happened Sunday morning, not a moment before said the head coach.

“We knew it was going to be day to day,” Haley said. “He had to be cleared at each juncture medically. It’s not a common thing, not something we’ve had a lot of experience with and you’ve got to bend to the medical staff and not put somebody in a compromising situation. We felt comfortable that we were doing the right thing.”

Before each game, the quarterbacks and receivers go out for a pre-pre-game throwing session. It goes down about two hours before kickoff and lasts about 20 minutes or so. It’s just another chance for the offense to prepare for the game. Before anybody knew what his status was for the game, Cassel did not take part in the session.

“I didn’t know where my conditioning was at,” Cassel explained. “During the week I didn’t get a chance to run. I was limited in what I could do in the gym. I wanted to make sure going into the game that I wasn’t expending too much energy.”

Once the game started, there did not seem to be any difference between Matt Cassel with appendix and Cassel without. His numbers were not outstanding, as he hit 15 of 29 passes (51.7 percent) for 184 yards (6.34 yards per attempt), one touchdown and a pesky interception that dropped his passer rating to 68.8 for the game. That pick by St. Louis CB Kevin Dockery was the first in 162 passing attempts, the second longest such streak in the league.

Cassel was not limited in his movements, whether in the pocket or on the run. He carried it six times for 17 yards, including a 13-yard run. It was after that second quarter run that Cassel got up after the tackle with great emotion and excitement and got the Chiefs fans in the north end zone all excited.

It was one of several emotion displays during the game.

“I’m an emotional guy and I like to have fun and enjoy it,” Cassel said. “Like I was telling the guys before the game, we have to embrace the opportunity. We don’t have many more left. Have fun out there, because not many people get to do it. We should look at it as a blessing and we should have fun when we get to play.”

That point was driven home again for Cassel last week when he couldn’t play. That’s why although the doctors, trainers and coaches didn’t know it: he was going to play against the Rams.

“As the quarterback of this team, I want to be out there as much as possible,” Cassel said. “Any chance I had to play this week, I was going to do it. Throughout the week the evaluation of where I was, they said “you’ll be OK.” One of the doctors texted me before the game and said I’m more nervous than you are. Other than that, my family knows I wouldn’t put myself in jeapordy and knows I’m a competitor. They gave me their blessings and said ‘go get’em’.

“All I went by is feel. I felt good over the course of the week. I felt better each and every day. I felt good out there today.”

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