So big, bad, nasty Todd Haley really is a softie?
Wasn’t it just a few days ago we read a lengthy piece in the local fish wrap headlined on the paper’s website with “Chiefs coach Haley not the type to take it easy on his team.”
Of course that story ran without any mention of Haley taking his team bowling last Friday afternoon, rather than practice. And Haley made the story look even more misplaced on Tuesday when he cancelled the rest of the Chiefs OTA sessions and sent his players home for what will now be a six-week vacation.
So the Chiefs are so good right now that their hard-edged coach is rewarding them by slicing what amounts to four practices in a week?
“We’ve got a long way to go but from where we started to where we’re at right now I think the guys really worked hard every day and we had such a good attendance with so many guys here, that it was worth throwing them a bone,” said Haley.
“Was there going to be a case of diminishing returns because again these guys started early, have been working really hard? I just thought it was worth the sacrifice.”
The Chiefs accomplished a lot in this off-season as a group. Everything isn’t perfect, everything isn’t in place. There are many, many things to work on. More than likely, they could have put those four practices to good use.
But obviously Haley believes his team has gotten the message he was delivering.
His belief will be tested six weeks from now when they return and the team heads to training camp. Will they retain their knowledge? Will they grow their understanding of what the coach and his staff want? Will they show up in the shape they left the building in on Tuesday?
“What we can’t do is go back to square one in any way, shape or form,” Haley said. “If we do it really just becomes a waste of time, which we don’t want it to be.
“I don’t want to go into training camp to get into shape. I want to go into training camp in shape. I think that gives us the best chance to succeed since that’s one less thing to be worrying about. We’ll have more focus on the football aspect o f it; we’ll have less injuries and all the things that go along with being a well conditioned team.”
Certainly the growth of his defense attracted Haley’s attention. With an entirely new scheme, new coordinator and all but one new coach, that side of the ball figured to take more time to come together. That hasn’t proven to be the case.
“I think we’ve made great progress,” said Haley. “Until the pads are on and we’re really playing we won’t know for sure. But as far as understanding what they need to do, I think we’re night and day. Technique-wise, fundamentals, alignments, all the things that go with making a big change like we did, I think we’re a lot further ahead.
“We put in a bunch of our pressures, really all of them, and I think that those are the tough things for guys, getting lined up correctly, understanding what gap they have to take care of and I think overall I feel encouraged by what I’ve seen.”
There were things that did not get done. The passing game lags behind and there was not enough work on situational football.
“We didn’t get to a lot of that in these OTAs,” said Haley. “So in training camp we’ll have to see a lot more practiced devoted to situations, all kinds of situations, anything you can think of to get this team to a point where it’s a smart football team and understands how to win.
“That will be the next progression along with getting into the full pads and having some physical practices.”
That’s really what came down with Haley’s decision to end the OTAs early; football in underwear has achieved all that is possible to this point. He and his staff need to see these 85 players play football, real football.
So as he said, Haley and his staff threw the players a bone. But I thought Haley was supposed to be a guy who beat his players over the head with a bone, or something harder? That’s the picture that’s been painted by many in the media. And it certainly wasn’t a portrayal that Haley was going to fight because it played into what he was trying to get done with this team in this off-season.
And that was very simply this: change the attitudes of players who were coming off two seasons where they won six of 32 games.
That meant he had to be loud and proud and profane and he had to get into the grill of quite a few players. Changes had to be made. Attention had to be gained. Most guys got the point. Those that did not (Will Franklin) are elsewhere or (Brian Waters) still pouting.
Was the tough guy stuff an act? Just who is the real Todd Haley?
Good coaches can have a lot of different faces. What does not change for them are the football principles they believe in. So if players follow the plan, do what their told and complete the assigned tasks, that supposedly mean and grumpy coach will have a smile on his face and days off in his back pocket.
COACHES NEED VACATION TOO
Haley and his staff won’t get as much time off as the players, but close. The head coach believes there has to be time for the coaches to re-charge.
“Coaches to be effective coaches have to have energy every day whether it’s talking to the team out on the field, coaching them on the practice field or game planning among themselves getting ready for each day of practice,” said Haley. “So there needs to be a recharge time and some great coaches believe strongly in that. That’s the way I was brought up.
“I believe last year I used every bit of energy and enthusiasm I had to get done the job we got done. You’ve got to re-charge and you’ve got to be able to bring it each and every day. There’s not light at the end of the tunnel once it starts.”
Haley’s been running through the tunnel since last July, what with the Arizona Cardinals season that extended into the playoffs, starting with the wildcard weekend and ending with the Super Bowl.
“I need a little break,” Haley said. “So I’m looking forward to a little time with my family for sure.”
So Haley and his wife will take their five children off to a family cottage on a lake in New York and then some time on an East Coast beach.
Before they know it, Dad will be in Wisconsin, and the season will be on.
WOULD THE CHIEFS HAVE ANY INTEREST IN PLAXICO BURRESS?
Would Haley like to come back from vacation and find a new receiver on his roster: troubled free agent Plaxico Burruss?
The coach would not commit himself on that subject.
“There are a lot of people involved in that decision and I won’t talk about anybody specifically,” Haley said. ‘It’s a process and a lot of people are in on that decision.”
With his legal difficulties pushed back into next year, Burress looks like he’s going to be able to play in the 2009 season. It’s going to be hard for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend him before he’s convicted in court or pleads guilty. Teams like Tampa Bay, Chicago and the New York Jets have reportedly expressed interest in signing Burress.
“It’s something that everybody in the organization has to be comfortable with,” Haley said, “and not just myself, not just Scott, everybody has to be comfortable and then you try to make the best educated decision.”
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
BENGALS — signed sixth-round draft choice CB Morgan Trent.
FALCONS – signed third-round draft choice CB Christopher Owens and fifth-round OT Garrett Reynolds; released OT Renardo Foster and K/P Robbie Dehaze.
PACKERS – signed sixth-round draft choices CB Brandon Underwood and DE Jarius Wynn and seventh-round choice LB Brad Jones.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on June 17, 1940 in Shelby, North Carolina was LB Bobby Bell (left). He was selected in the seventh-round of the 1963 AFL Draft out of Minnesota. Bell actually signed with the Texans, but never played in Dallas, moving north with the team. He ended up playing 12 seasons and in 168 games for the Chiefs. Bell had 26 career interceptions, including six that he returned for touchdowns. He also recovered two fumbles for touchdowns and returned on onside kick 55 yards for a TD. Bell was the first Chiefs player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in 1983.
Born on June 17, 1970 in San Pedro, California was LB Arnold Ale. He joined the Chiefs for the 1994 season and appeared in two games, working on special teams.
Born on June 17, 1976 in Erie, Pennsylvania was DE Eric Hicks. He joined the Chiefs as a rookie free agent in 1998 out of the University of Maryland. Hicks played nine seasons with the Chiefs, appearing in 127 games with 104 starts. He had 44 career sacks, including a career high 14 during the 2000 season.