As the Chiefs begin their off-season conditioning program on Monday, there will be two different views of the same issue.
Scott Pioli and Todd Haley will be watching to see who shows up. The Kansas City and national media will be looking to see whose shadow does not cross the door of the team’s facilities.
The fact is those outside the locker room and second floor at Chiefs headquarters are unlikely to find out just who showed up and who did not for the start of the “voluntary” program.
The media has already been warned they can only be in the media workroom. They cannot sit in the parking lot and count heads as they walk into the building. The locker room will be off-limits and given the way Pioli has structured things during his time in control of the franchise, the team won’t be providing attendance figures.
Eventually, we will all find out. Will the unhappy three amigos find their way to the locker room? Will Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Brian Waters be there for the first meeting and the first sessions in the weight room?
At best, I peg the chances as 33 percent that the trio will be there together. More than likely one of the three will be around. Anything more than one of the three and it’s a pretty good indication the team’s three stars have gotten the message that things are very different around the team with the new regime.
Over the last few years, these three guys seldom if ever, showed up for the first day of the off-season program. But things are very different now. Just about everything involving the players is going to be different around the Chiefs this year and Monday is when they start finding that out.
Waters learned that the landscape is very different back in February when he showed up at the team’s offices and wanted to meet with Pioli and Haley and was rebuffed. He then asked to be traded and apparently was scolded by Haley for his behavior and the fact his unhappiness became a very public matter.
Will Waters be able to put aside his bruised pride and show up? It will be interesting to see how he handles this moment.
Johnson doesn’t figure to be there Monday, especially given that the NFL Players Association has filed a grievance against the Chiefs over his contract. It’s been widely reported that the grievance has been filed by Johnson and his new agent Peter Schaeffer and that they will meet on Wednesday with the team.
That’s simply bad information. The grievance was filed by the NFLPA and will be heard by a special master/arbitrator. The union and the NFL Management Council will present evidence and the special master will then make a decision.
In question is a clause in Johnson’s contract, inserted by the Chiefs to protect themselves and their huge outlay of money to the running back. Basically, the clause outlines four actions that would make what guaranteed money was left to be paid on the deal no longer guaranteed. One of those actions was a league suspension for off-field behavior. That came last season, when he was suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for one game because of two assault charges in Kansas City. On Friday, Johnson pleaded guilty to two charges of disturbing the peace in a plea deal with prosecutors.
Johnson signed the contract and was aware of the clause, as was his then agent Alvin Keels. The deal and its language were approved by the NFL and the union when it was submitted two years ago. When Johnson was suspended, the Chiefs again made him aware that his suspension made the payments no longer guaranteed. The bonuses and base salary can still be earned by Johnson, but he won’t get them if he’s not on the team.
Now, the union says the language violates rules and regulations as outlined by the collective bargaining agreement and other decisions. The arbitrator will decide in favor of the Chiefs or the NFLPA.
Gonzalez and his situation took several different turns last week. Clark Hunt doesn’t want to trade him. Gonzalez wants to be traded, but he apparently won’t come out and say so to Pioli and Hunt, so he has others talking for him.
If Gonzalez wants out, it wouldn’t make much sense for him to appear at the first day of the conditioning program.
There may be a few others missing, like some of the recent free agent additions. To take part restricted free agents Rudy Niswanger, Jarrad Page and Jeff Webb would have to sign their tender offers. They cannot participate without a signed contract. Those actions should be a mere formality.
A new era dawns Monday with the Chiefs. Who will be there to see the first sunrise will be very interesting.
FOOTBALL LOSES AN ORIGINAL IN PASSING OF LOU SABAN
Should you check the sports dictionary for a character who led the history of competition in changing jobs it doesn’t say basketball coach Larry Brown.
No, it says Lou Saban.
The man who coached in the AFL, NFL, Arena League, major college football, small college football, really small college football and high school football passed away on Sunday at his home in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He was 87 years old and had recently been suffering from heart problems.
He was a head coach in six different decades, his final job coming at tiny Chowan College in North Carolina in 2002. At one point in his long coaching career, over the span of 33 years, Saban held 18 different jobs. He once spent 19 days as the athletic director at the University of Cincinnati.
Saban was part of nine of the 10 seasons of the American Football League. He coached the Boston Patriots (1960-61), the Buffalo Bills (1962-65) and the Denver Broncos (1967-71). Saban later went back and coached the Bills for a second time (1972-76). His Bills teams in 1964-65 won AFL championships.
It always seemed like Saban eventually got sideways with owners and athletic directors and he would quit and force his firing. That’s what happened after he won those two championships, when he left the Bills and went the University of Maryland.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on March 30, 1955 in San Francisco was RB Tony Reed (right).¬† A second-round choice of the Chiefs in the 1977 NFL Draft out of Colorado, Reed played five seasons in the NFL, with four of those coming in Kansas City (1977-80). He appeared in 56 games, with 42 starts in the Chiefs offense, running for 2,184 yards on 513 carries and eight touchdowns. He also caught 138 passes for 1,382 yards and two more scores. Reed was the team’s leading rusher in the 1978 seasons with 1,053 yards and a 5.1-yard average per carry.
Born on March 30, 1976 in Torrance, California was G/T John Welbourn. Acquired in a trade before the 2004 season from Philadelphia, Welbourn played 47 games with 39 starts for the Chiefs over four seasons (2004-07).