Pre-Game Workout Lifts Hali … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

It goes down about three hours before kickoff every time the Chiefs play a game.

Long before the stadium gates are open to allow the fans in, ahead of when the popcorn is even popped and before some of his teammates have even arrived at the stadium, OLB Tamba Hali is sweating.

Hali is on the field, in one corner of the end zone, usually with a hoodie on and wearing headphones. Out there with him is Master Joe Kim, a trained expert in taekwondo. Joe Kim has spent several seasons working with various NFL and college teams on improving their ability to handle the hand-to-hand combat that is so much a part of football. Todd Haley brought him in during the 2010 off-season and his willingness to work with players brought even more time for Joe Kim around the Chiefs in 2011.

In those early morning moments, Hali would go through a series of drills with Joe Kim. They would go 20 and 30 yards hand fighting, then turn around and sprint back. Hali would work on outside rushes, bending his body around an imaginary half circle as Joe Kim hit him with a large pad. Over and over and over this would go on, usually for 15 minutes, sometimes longer.

Some players wouldn’t work as hard in the entire 60-minute game as Hali did during those. But then most players do not possess the inner drive and determination that Tamba Hali carries through every day.

There was finally a recognition payoff for that this week when Hali was named to the AFC team for the Pro Bowl. He’ll be playing in the January 29th game in Hawaii. The invitation comes after voting done by players, coaches and the fans. It’s a well deserved honor for the six-year veteran who has been one of the NFL’s best pass rushers over the last three seasons.

“It’s a privilege to be able to make those things,” Hali said Wednesday. “I know D.J. and I work our tails off and it pays off in this fashion. It’s always great to be accepted around the country as one of the better players in this league.”

One of the items that has helped Hali reach the level of being considered among the league’s best is that pre-game routine. There was a time when football coaches would never have allowed one of their players to go through any type of strenuous pre-game routine for fear they would be wiped out and tired when the real playing began.

The person who changed that perception for everyone was Jerry Rice. Considered by every possible method as the greatest wide receiver in the history of the game, and possibly the game’s greatest player in the last 40 years, Rice would go out before games and run through a workout session that eventually intimidated some opponents. He would work long and hard on the field, doing many things that Hali has done with hand fighting. Rice borrowed ideas from basketball, the martial arts, anything that would test him and his body, fine tuning it for the game.

For Hali, the pre-game routine was something he did at Penn State, where he and other defensive linemen would take the field with their position coach Larry Johnson Sr. and get their muscles moving and warmed up. That type of preparation didn’t come together again for Hali until his fourth season in the league and the arrival of a new head coach, Todd Haley.

“When I got here it was like a new thing, guys just go out and do whatever they want,” Hali said. “We come out as a team and have stretching and then come back out and play a game. I got hurt my first couple of years not doing those types of things I was used to doing.

“It came about with Todd saying ‘you’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to stretch, you’ve got to run around, do what you do, create yourself a little routine each week.’ I started doing it and Joe [Kim], just been working with Joe for three years now.”

What Hali and Kim try to recreate in these sessions are moments that he’s sure to face in the game, especially when he’s rushing the passer.

“He and I go out there and it’s like any sprinter will do,” Hali said. “They’ll go out here and run sprints until they are tired a couple of hours before they race. They’ve got one sprint and they’ve got to do well that one time.

“This is almost like the same idea. I need to get tired, catch my second wind and be real loose so when the game starts, if those guys are a little tight, that gives me an edge to get the work done.”

One of the reasons Joe Kim was brought back and given more time with the players was his work with Hali starting in 2009. From his first days in the NFL, Hali has always sought the extra edge. As a rookie, he would study kung-fu DVDs while flying on the team charter to and from games. He was trying to learn whatever he could about using his arms and hands in combat.

Joe Kim with his advanced knowledge of taekwondo is able to translate movements from his sport to help football players, especially those involved in so much hand-to-hand combat like pass rushers on defense and wide receivers on offense.

It’s all fallen together to make Hali a 2011 Pro Bowler.

7 Responses to “Pre-Game Workout Lifts Hali … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • December 29, 2011  - ED J says:

    Now what I would love to see is Dorsey running out there with him doing some of that hand to hand combat.

  • December 29, 2011  - el cid says:

    I would prefer to see Dorsey traded for a 2nd rounder. Nice guy but is not the best fit in a 3-4.

  • December 29, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Outstanding article, as usual. Hali is the leader of this team. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, the role model is Hali. If Justin Houston wants to take the next step, he should adopt Hali’s routine. Same for anyone else on the team who wants to increase the odds of becoming a dominant player and fantastically wealthy human being.

  • December 29, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    el cid I agree that Dorsey is not a perfect fit for 3-4 but I have never been a fan of 3-4. Ok, I’m probably outdated, but can you imagine a high school team trying to play a 3-4? They, my guess, get killed. You have to have the right people to pull that off. I know it’s becoming popular in NFL but I don’t know why. As to Hali, I don’t understand why every “pro” doesn’t try as hard as he does. Make millons, spend even more and don’t try to get better means your team comes in last. Oh crap, that might be us.

  • December 29, 2011  - el cid says:

    Well, Hali with his change of position is a very special player. We all recognize that.

    The 3-4 is the defense of choice of KC and Crennel but you need the guys to fit and our DL has not together for the last 3 years. Square pegs trying to fit in round holes. Jackson would be a good backup for most 3-4 teams and might be about to spell both DEs. Bailey look like he might fit. Gregg is all that was left after our two “inadequate” NT ran out of town. Dorsey would be so much better in a 4-3. Gilberry is a situational guy, not an every down so far.

    Well we are stuck. If Crennel in here next year it is the 3-4 and Pioli is all NE, a 3-4 skill players be damned.

  • December 29, 2011  - aPauled says:

    The Pro Bowl is a nice honor for the work and play Hali has put in. DJ as well. We can thank Haley for bringing that extra work ethic to the Chiefs that helped Hali, DJ, Bowe and others to take that step to the next level. It’s nice that Hali acknowledged Haley.

  • December 29, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Yes, epaul, I agree. Haley was not the problem; he was the fall guy but how do you fire the owner? Life is good but being a Chiefs fan can be…trying. Go Chiefs.

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