Make Work … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Matt Cassel’s words were firm and loud.

“Take it easy out here guys,” Cassel told a new group of defensive backs who were coming out to get into the huddle. “Take it easy.”

Cassel’s words and their intent – don’t get hurt – makes it hard to know what will come out of the three-day players’ mini-camp that ended on Thursday morning with a third practice session at Bishop Miege High School.

What went down in the 90-minute session looked much like any other football practice in its framework. There were individual position periods, there was time for the offensive and defensive units to get together and there was a competitive period where the two sides went against each other. There was even interview time – that’s S Jon McGraw above talking through the fence, a perfect sort of lockout picture.

I must say this – it’s the third instance where because of a labor dispute I watched NFL players work on their own. Practices during the 1982 and 1987 strikes were jokes compared to what the players were doing in this practice during the current/2011 lockout. In those previous seasons, players walked off the field at various points and simply sat in the shade. Both of those strikes came during the regular season, so the players initially viewed the downtime as an unexpected vacation. Any motivation to work during the strike quickly disappeared and sessions continued for only a short time.

That wasn’t the case with this 2011 players’ mini-camp.

Cassel, Jon McGraw and Derrick Johnson, were the leaders of this affair and did about as good a job as possible to recreate the atmosphere of an off-season OTA session that they would have held this month with Todd Haley and the Chiefs coaching staff if not for the lockout.

That’s what Thursday morning and the previous sessions were missing – coaching. There was no taping of the session and no meeting afterwards to break down what happened. There were no coaches to provide evaluation or reminders about fundamentals.

That makes the value of the actual work on the field quite suspect and it would be ridiculous to read anything into what actually happened on the field Thursday morning. Nobody made the team, nobody stamped their ticket to the waiver wire. For team building and bonding purposes, it may have been valuable time for the 45 players who got to Kansas City for the work. For molding what the ’11 Chiefs will become, it’s something that will be quickly forgotten.

One of the best things that coaches Cassel-McGraw-Johnson did was hold a meeting before each of the three practices. The team broke up by offense and defense and talked about what they were going to do on the field as far as offensive plays, defensive calls and situational circumstances. This wasn’t the case of players just showing up, sitting in the back of their Escalade, pulling on their spikes and running on the field.

There was the preparation meeting. There were trainers in place to do everything from tape ankles to provide ice afterwards. There was a cooler with Gatorade available. There were kids serving as ball boys & girls and others who helped keep the practice on schedule. There was even a group of security types on hand to make sure there were no problems bothering the sessions from the outside world.

All of that qualifies as good things coming from the mini-camp. That a good bulk of the team’s players showed up was also a good sign. Some of the players were raving about the attendance and given that the three-day event was voluntary, it was a good showing. But it was not nearly as impressive as it should have been.

There were seven starters who did not show up. The fact that LG Brian Waters and OLB Mike Vrabel were no shows was not a surprise, given their active participation in the negotiations between players and the league. RT Barry Richardson, NT Ron Edwards, OLB Tamba Hali and CB Brandon Carr are all without contracts, so they may have been counseled to not risk injury by taking part in the sessions. Other players without contracts did take part, but they were all backups with the exception of C Casey Wiegmann.

Beyond a major personal problem/situation, nothing explains the absence of LT Branden Albert. He has a contract and he’s also a guy that we know has to be careful when it comes to his weight. Albert tends to get big, and Haley and the Chiefs want him to be lighter. Same with LB Demorrio Williams – he was not seen on Thursday; as a veteran holding on to a roster spot by his fingertips, he needed to be there. It’s the same with WR Chris Chambers, although his future may have been written when he was inactive for the Baltimore game in the playoffs.

More important are the players that were there, like the RB duo of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. WR Dwayne Bowe was there and appeared to be in very good shape. That’s a plus given his history of staying in shape in the off-season. The offensive linemen on Thursday all looked in good physical condition. The defensive linemen not so much, but then it’s hard for DTs Shaun Smith or Anthony Toribio to look like they are in shape at any time. DE Tyson Jackson did appear to be in good shape and that was a good indication that he’s been working out.

For the draft choices that showed up – five of the nine – it was a good investment of time to learn more about the atmosphere they are walking into and the men that will soon be their teammates. Practice is practice, and there’s very little difference from the college to NFL level for an off-season session. But terminology can be quite a challenge and the week gave them a chance to start that process.

So, there was certainly some good that came out of the players’ mini-camp, and as far as we know, there was nothing bad, although no injury report was provided – that’s how deeply the Patriots Way has infected these guys.

Whether the work was worthwhile in building the Chiefs for the 2011 season is doubtful.

CALLING THE ROLL

There was no official charting of who was on the field for Thursday morning’s session, but here was the role call from what I saw at the Bishop Miege High School stadium:

Quarterbacks (3) – Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi.

Running backs (4) – Jamaal Charles, Mike Cox, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster.

Wide receivers (4) – Jonathan Baldwin, Dwayne Bowe, Verran Tucker, Jerheme Urban.

Tight end (5) – Brad Cottam, Tony Moeaki, Jake O’Connell, Leonard Pope, Cody Slate.

Offensive line (8) – Jon Asamoah, Bobby Greenwood, Darryl Harris, Rodney Hudson, Ryan Lilja, Rudy Niswanger, Ryan O’Callaghan, Casey Wiegmann.

Defensive line (5) – Glenn Dorsey, Wallace Gilberry, Tyson Jackson, Shaun Smith, Anthony Toribio.

Linebackers (8) – Jovan Belcher, Justin Cole, Cory Greenwood, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Corey Mays, Andy Studebaker, Pierre Walters.

Secondary (8) – Javier Arenas, Eric Berry, Jalil Brown, Brandon Flowers, Reshard Langford, Quentin Lawrence, Kendrick Lewis, Donald Washington.


6 Responses to “Make Work … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 17, 2011  - well says:

    makes sense when it comes to carr and a couple others…

    but there is NO excuse if albert is just sitting at home. No Albert,Richardson bothers me. no chambers just pisses me off because the guy gets a 3 year 15 mil dollar deal and players like pope etc who don’t even have a contract were able to show up. He is such a slug and deserves to get cut.

    too bad really. A few names that really are disappointing no shows


  • June 17, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    Chambers will be cut before the first game. I guarantee it. The guy just can’t get open and gets covered like a wet blanket. He’s gone.


  • June 17, 2011  - cowboyChief says:

    If Casey W was here and working out, I would think he’s planning on one more year?


  • June 17, 2011  - Zach says:

    No Dexter McCluster?


  • June 17, 2011  - Mike in MO says:

    Dex was there.


  • June 27, 2011  - John Chief says:

    Houston wasn’t there




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