A few tidbits and thoughts as the Chiefs head into a week that will end with the first mini-camp for Todd Haley and his coaching staff.
ITEM: CHIEFS ADD ZACH THOMAS/WHY NOT KEEP DONNIE EDWARDS?/DOESÂ THIS MEAN NO AARON CURRY?
The Chiefs and veteran linebacker Zach Thomas agreed to a one-year contract over the weekend. Thomas is expected in town this week to sign the deal and take part in the weekend’s mini-camp.
So why would the Chiefs sign Thomas, who will be 36 on September 1, after releasing veteran Donnie Edwards, who himself is 36? And, does this signing take the Chiefs out of the picture for using that third choice on Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry?
Let’s start with the second question first.Â It’s hard to believe the signing of Thomas has any effect on what the Chiefs will do at No. 3.Â If they’ve decided Curry is theirÂ guy, then they will still go ahead and draft him; doing anything different wouldn’t make sense.Â But everyone needs to remember that we have no idea if they think Curry is the guy at No. 3.
On to the initial question of why Thomas over Edwards.Â First, Thomas is the big inside backer that the Chiefs do not have on their roster. There are eight backers on the list and the biggest is Vrabel at 6-4, 261. He could play inside, but he’s been an outside linebacker during his career. The biggest ILB would be Monty Beisel at 244 pounds. Edwards played inside linebacker or middle linebacker for both the Chiefs and Chargers, but he was 225 pounds. Thomas is a lot closer to the prototype middle/inside backer.
Second, Edwards was on the roster for seven games last year, after a ’07 season where he was bothered in the second half of the season by a hamstring injury. Thomas played in 15 games last year for Dallas.
And third, Thomas brings intangibles with him, in leadership and his approach to the game. The guy who always wanted to get Thomas in his defense was Gunther Cunningham. From the time he was coming out of Texas Tech in the 1996 NFL Draft, Cunningham tried to find ways to get Thomas. When Cunningham was trying to mold Kawika Mitchell into the middle linebacker/leader of the unit in 2004, he kept referencing Thomas as the type of personality in the middle that he was seeking for his defense.
For what Pioli/Haley is trying to do right now, Zach Thomas makes sense.
ITEM: WILL TRADE WINDS BLOW THROUGH ARROWHEAD BEFORE THE DRAFT?
Tony Gonzalez, Larry Johnson and Brian Waters all have said in the calendar year 2009 that they want out of Kansas City. L.J. has since changed his mind, according to his agent. Gonzalez and Waters have been quiet lately.
If it’s going to happen, then it will go down in the next 12 days before the NFL Draft.
National Football Post columnist Michael Lombardi wrote over the weekend that the Atlanta Falcons are working hard to make a deal for Gonzalez. That makes a lot of sense. Gonzalez would be a great option for Matt Ryan and one of those puzzle pieces that might put the Falcons over the top. Lombardi, who worked for many years in the NFL – including a stint with the Browns where Scott Pioli was breaking into the league – says the Falcons will give up their second-round choice. That’s pick No. 55.
If I wereÂ Pioli I’d go for that second pick and make the Falcons throw in the fifth-round pick they picked up from the Raiders, No. 143. That package would have meÂ sending Tony G. to the A-T-L in a flash. To get a second-round pick for a 13-year veteran tight end who says he’s only going to play one, maybe two years at the most, would be a very nice pickup.
Also remember, Atlanta’s GM is Thomas Dimitroff, who worked for Pioli with the Patriots for six years, including five as the team’s director of college scouting.
ITEM: SCHEDULE COMING ON TUESDAY
The NFL will release the weekly schedule for the 2009 season on Tuesday evening. Both ESPN and the NFL Network will have specials that night introducing the games.
One of the commentators on the NFL Network who will break down the schedule will be former Chiefs president-GM Carl Peterson. He will join former Tampa Bay GM Bruce Allen, former San Francisco-Detroit coach Steve Mariucci and Solomon Wilcots in discussing the games as they are released to the public.
Here’s a reminder on the Chiefs opponents for this year:
- HOME: Denver, Oakland, San Diego, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York Giants and Buffalo.
- AWAY: Denver, Oakland, San Diego, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington and Jacksonville.
ITEM: LEARNING HOW TO WIN
The Chiefs roster is filled with a lot of players who have lived through 2-14 or 6-26 over the last two seasons. The question is asked: do they know how to win?
Todd Haley is not waiting to find out. He’s ratcheting up the competition right in the team’s off-season strength and conditioning program. Groups of players go off twice in the morning and once in the afternoon, four days a week. Each group has about 15 to 20 players taking part. While the lifting of weights and aerobic exercises are done individually by each player, they are done in the framework of the group.
“Every lift we do, every drill, everything is the group together,” said safety Jarrad Page. “Everybody starts at the same time. Everybody moves on to the next thing at the same time. Whether it’s on the field running or in the weight room … We are in there working together. Nobody is done before anybody else. Nobody is lagging behind. We start together and we end together.”
Togetherness/teamwork is obviously being stressed. Another by-product of these sessions under strength and conditioning coaches Cedric Smith and Brent Salazar is competition. Within these groups, players are lifting and running not only with, but against each other. Pull together 15 professional athletes doing the same things at the same time in the weight room and the competitive level naturally goes up.
“Because we are doing things together, you get to see each other do these things,” said Page. “You get to see what another guy does and that just drives the next guy to match what he did, or do it better. And the next guy sees that and wants to do more.
“There’s no doubt that the competitive side of this is being stressed. You can’t help but notice. The whole atmosphere around here is about competing. It’s the word you hear most often.”
Page thinks that teaches lessons on how to win.
“I think doing what we are doing now is part of learning how to win,” said Paige. “Part of learning how to compete against each other, make it through things that are tough; these workouts are tough right now. They are pushing you to get through. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, everybody is pushing through and getting these done. Guys are finishing.
“All this is stuff people don’t see, but they see teams finishing in the fourth quarter on Sunday. I think that begins by finishing as a group in April. It’s similar in what’s required of each player and the group together; teaching yourself mentally how to do that is teaching yourself how to win games.”
ITEM: STRENGTH FROM THE COACHING STAFF
Veteran receiver Bobby Engram thinks the young Chiefs receivers like Dwayne Bowe will have a great resource this year in wide receivers coach Dedric Ward.
“Receiver can be a very difficult position to adjust to coming into this league,” Engram said. “What is going to help those guys is having Dedric Ward in the room … a former player who had eight years in the league.”
Ward played for five teams in the league from 1997 through the 2004 season: New York Jets, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Dallas. He joined the Jets in ’07 as a third-round pick out of Northern Iowa. He played in 103 games with 166 catches for 2,307 yards and a dozen touchdown catches.
“I think that is an intangible that a lot of teams don’t have,” Engram said of Ward. “A former NFL receiver in the room that can talk the talk and has been there; It will be good to get that wisdom, as well.”
At 36, Engram is some 20 months older than his position coach, as Ward will not turn 35 until September.
“The thing that I can do is just be an example,” Engram said. “Just come out and prepare, work hard and make plays on Sunday and then like I said, if you get to know each other better, pull them in the film room, make sure you are pushing each other, make sure everybody is doing all of the little things right and that will come with time. It is all about taking care of business both on and off the field. That is something that I’m sure we will have a lot of conversations about. “