Quiet Time in St. Joe … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

From St. Joseph, Missouri

By about 7 o’clock Wednesday evening, Missouri Western State University was in the rear view mirrors of all the players on the Chiefs roster except the rookies.

The first-year guys had to spend another night in Scanlon Hall before heading to KCI on Thursday for the team’s charter flight to Baltimore and Friday’s game against the Ravens.

Another Chiefs training camp is in the books. It was a most unusual three weeks in football immersion given the circumstances of the NFL owners’ lockout and the new rules that govern practices that became part of the labor agreement.

In year two of the Chiefs in the Joe, the glamour and glitter were gone. Attendance at practices was way down. The annual Family Fun Day went from over 10,000 fans in 2010 to just over 3,000 this year. Changes in the rules and the schedules did not make it easy to plan a trip for the folks traveling north out of Kansas City.

Wednesday morning’s walkthrough practice had less than 100 people watching the session on the Missouri Western practice fields. The close proximity of the training camp to the Kansas City metro area created more yawns than screams of anticipation and support for the Chiefs practices.

“Every day, every practice you see the real Chiefs fans out here,” said head coach Todd Haley. “I think it’s the way training camp should be and wish more and more people would realize how easy it is to get up here and they can see these guys up close.

“I know it helps us out a bunch.”

There are a number of reasons that attendance was significantly decreased at camp practices this year according to fans and visitors that I talked to over three weeks:

Lockout – The labor situation was settled so late in the picture that there was no chance for a normal build of anticipation for camp. One day the two sides agree, the next day free agency started and it seemed like the next day teams were headed to camp.

Weather – With temperatures over 100 degrees and very high humidity, the first week of camp was oppressive and definitely drove some people away. There’s no shade at the practice fields and fans are asked to sit on metal bleachers that some days was like sitting on a griddle.

Economy – It still sucks and that’s especially evident around St. Joe. However, this is one reason that attendance figured to go up, since most families were considering “stay-cations” made up of one or two day trips, rather than going to the lake, mountains or beach for a week.

Changing schedule – As Haley dealt with the changes forced on him by the league and the new labor agreement, and blending that with his approach of making sure the players were in gaining ground on conditioning, it saw the timing of the schedule being changed multiple times.

Changing rules – A training camp practice isn’t what it used to be. Players are now in pads just once a day, and there are time limits on how long they can be on the field. There was a time when fans could come to camp on a Wednesday afternoon and see practice. They could stay over and then see two practices on Thursday and at least one more on Friday morning. That’s one trip, two nights lodging and four practices. With the changes, that one trip, two nights away would have allowed them to see two practices.

It’s old hat – I understand that my view is a bit jaded given the fact I’ve been to NFL training camps for 35 years now. But once fans see a camp practice, they are likely to find out that it’s a pretty boring affair. There’s no announcer explaining what’s happening. There’s no video board with stats and replays. Excitement is at a minimum. And, if the trip is for interaction with the players and autographs, that’s tough sledding. There’s only one place on campus where fans are allowed to greet the players. They won’t run into them walking on campus; not allowed. There’s not a neighborhood next to Missouri Western’s campus where fans could meet players hanging out at an establishment serving adult beverages. Players sign autographs every day, but there are only a handful of players that go out of their way to give their time every practice. QB Matt Cassel is amazing, as he seldom misses a day and signs for long periods of time. Haley is the same way, and is always working the fence line where the fans can stand and often beg for attention. Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles, seem to be signing every day.

Chiefs Bandwagon stalled – This factor cannot be ignored. Last year’s division title and trip to the playoffs was so unexpected, Chiefs fans never really got rocking to their highest levels of red and gold craziness. Then, the stay in the post-season ended quickly and decisively. That was followed by a total lack of the off-season to reignite interest. With the end of the owners’ lockout coming so close to the start of pre-season, there was no anticipation time.

What the fans that did not find their way to the Missouri Western campus missed was one of the more unusual camps in team history, and possibly the most different camp this summer in the NFL. According to Haley, the Chiefs leave STJ having put together a good three weeks of conditioning and team building, something that must continue when they return to practice at their facility following Friday night’s game.

Only in the last few days have they gotten around to working football on the practice field. It all goes under the category of you can’t do it all at one time. So Haley worked on conditioning and team building.

“It’s been a chance for the team to come together and start to really become a team,” Haley said. “Every year it’s different, there are always changes and it’s never the same. This is a new group of guys and when you are in the training camp mode, where you are away from family and friends and your own room, it really has a lot to do with shaping your team early on.

“This year it’s more important than ever with the off-season opportunities that were missed. We got some team building that still needs to go on and training camp does that as much as anything else in my opinion.”

So while not many fans came to watch, and the football work was not what it normally was, Training Camp 2011 goes into the books a qualified success for Haley and the Chiefs.

Of course, we’ll have a far more relevant scoreboard come December, when Missouri Western is but a very faded memory.

See ya St. Joe! Thanks.

16 Responses to “Quiet Time in St. Joe … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 18, 2011  - Timmay says:

    Don’t forget the flood. It made the trip from Omaha about an hour longer.

  • August 18, 2011  - el cid says:

    It bugs me every time I hear a Chief’s management/coaches talk about team building. What team in the NFL is not building for a winner? Every stinking year? Even Carls last 10 years? How stupid am I supposed to be?

    10 wins last year, then a lockout, and it seems the current Chiefs are reduced to a expansion team. Now, anyone else jumping for joy to see the Chiefs go to the playoffs this year? How about the superbowl? Or winning more than 10 game? No we are all about “tough schedule” or hangover from no football fixes during the lockout. Throw in last fridays “effort” and it is a wonder the residents of St Joe (not St Joes) did not leave town when the Chiefs showed up.

  • August 18, 2011  - boohoo says:

    el cid: Want some cheese with that whine. Quit being a negative nancy and look at the positive side of things. Yes, the schedule is tougher…a lot tougher. But in the long run it should make us better and more playoff ready. Look at what the Chiefs have added talent-wise this offseason. There’s a lot to be excited about. Try it some time.

  • August 18, 2011  - Adam S says:

    El Cid, how can you not be excited about the chiefs this year? We have a very, very exciting offense this year. Three legit wide outs, number one rushing attack, a dynamic tight end and a utility player that scares the S*it out of D-coordinators. Remember, we don’t have to decide between Damon Huard, Casey Printers of Brodie Croyle anymore. We have a legitamite starting qb in Cassel! Our offensive line should be better, it has at least more depth. I love Brian Waters, but what does it say about the player that hasn’t been picked up yet(I still wish him the best) I didn’t even go to training camp and I’m excited! GO CHIEFS!!!
    Our defense should get better with the development of the stud draft last year as with the additions on defense. I know it’s going to be a tough schedule, but can you imagine what teams are going to think if we make the playoffs after that gauntlet of a schedule?

  • August 18, 2011  - Justin says:

    I agree with Anon(ymous). Camp in River Falls was way better. I went to St Joe last year and found the heat and humidity oppressive, the fields to far to view and the entire layout way worse than River Falls.

    Also, Gretz is right. I spent time in the hotel bar where I saw Zach Thomas, Vrable, Cassel and Croyle hanging and having a beer. BTW Croyle’s wife was pretty hot. No way that happens in St Joe.

    Finally, on the off days, golf was great all around River Falls. St Joe…I dunno

  • August 18, 2011  - Petey says:

    Not to sound like a complete nerd, but the absolute best part of going to River Falls was going over to the dorms and getting autographs. I was an 8 year veteran and saw it progressivly get worse over the last couple of years. We used to be able to darn near go right to the door of the dorms and walk w/ the players. Then they flagged off areas and put team security and campus security out there (not very pleasent men) and finally they just shut it down the last two years and that’s when I stopped going. The interaction was unbelievable and was incredibly disappointed when it ended.

  • August 18, 2011  - HOOKER says:

    My family and I absolutely loved training camp at River Falls for a decade! We’d stay at least a week every year. St. Joe is lousy and the way the Chiefs conduct things (and charge) is far worse. This year we only attended camp once. Getting out the mandated pay parking lot following a night practice was ridiculously torturous.

  • August 18, 2011  - AFCWEST says:

    The chiefs don’t charge anything for training camp, MWSU does.

  • August 18, 2011  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    C’mon back to Wisconsin! We’d love to have you.

    I had a nice 5 hour ride from the Milwaukee area (SE) to get to River Falls (NW). Not as hot up here and we’ve got great golf and fishing on the off days.

    Like the gentlemen above mentioned, the access to players and coaches was incredible, but it changed in the last few years. The Marty years were awesome.

    Go CHIEFS!

  • August 18, 2011  - jim says:

    As much fun as fans would like for THEIR training camp experiences to be, it is not being held for their gratification or edification. It is being held to get the team ready for the regular season. If they (Chiefs) do anything short of that to simply accomodate a bunch of fickeled, it’s all about me, fans, I’d REALLY be disappointed. It’s simple guys: If you don’t like it, damnit, don’t go. But if you do, quit your bitchin. It’s not there for YOUR enjoyment. There’s work to be done, and nobody cares, or should care, how you feel. Get over yourselves.

  • August 18, 2011  - Rick says:

    el cid, do us all a favor and jump on the Green Bay bandwagon. Jeeze, your constant negativity is way past old.

  • August 18, 2011  - Rwh1974 says:

    My wife and I took my grandson to St. Joe for a Wednesday evening practice. While not that exciting for my grandson, I really enjoyed it. He did enjoy the autograph session at the end of practice.Dwyane Bowe walked up to a small group of us and started signing. My wife was surprised at how polite Bowe was. Not really the guy portrayed by the press. So thanks Bowe and the Chiefs for an enjoyable evening. If your going to be the best you need to play the best. If this years scheduale exposes the weaknesses of the team that’s a good thing in the long run. You never know maybe the Chiefs are better than you think. Go Chiefs!

  • August 18, 2011  - Mark says:

    If anyone is griping about anything, any part of training camp in Missouri they aren’t real Chief fans.

    For how long have you all complained about getting this in your state? Well, now you got it, so you better enjoy it!

    Weather, economy, schedule….to bad, I don’t care. Suck it up and get out and support your team. I made the 3 1/2 hour drive up to Wisconsin for several years to support the Chiefs and I’m sure that state would take them back in a heart beat.
    In 2009 4 weeks removed from open heart surgery me and my son made the 11 hour trip to Canton,OH for the induction of DT and then got up the next morning and drove 12 hours drive to River Falls, WI to catch the morning and afternoon practices the next day.

  • August 19, 2011  - Petey says:

    Sure Mark, I don’t like training camp in Missouri, so that makes me less of a fan, got it. For the record, I live in SD and Wisconsin was a MUCH better place to have camp.

    Do the Chiefs ‘owe’ the fans anything? Probably not, but I’ll tell you what, I was spending so much money on that team when they were in Wisconsin because I felt a connected to the players because they were so accomadating. Once they changed policies that changed a lot with me.

    No, the Chiefs don’t owe the fans anything, but it’s pretty dumb when they bite the proverbial hand that feeds them.

  • August 19, 2011  - Fansince93 says:

    I’ll 2nd Justins comments. I loved the North Woods. My brother and I would turn this into a nice 3 day vacation.

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