Starting To Sweat … Monday Cup O’Chiefs

Monday morning is the kickoff to the Chiefs off-season strength and conditioning program and the tension and anxiety level in the locker room must be significantly lower than it was at this time last year.

Todd Haley hopes it’s not too low; a healthy dose of anxiety is something he wants for every one of his players.

There isn’t a soul on the roster that after his performance during the team’s 4-12 season in 2009 that should feel he’s arrived in the NFL and he can’t improve his production and efficiency. If there is someone of that mindset, he will be exposed very quickly once the bodies are set in motion during the workouts.

Last year at this time, the team began Year No. 1 under Haley without much of an idea of what they faced. They soon learned that no matter what shape they reported in, they were not nearly in good enough shape for this head coach. By the time the workouts were over in June, there had been some 700+ pounds lost, gallons of sweat poured from the players and there were more than a few hard feelings along the way.

It was during these sessions that the returning Chiefs found out there head coach wasn’t a guy that was going to pat them on the back and tell them to try harder next time. It was a real culture shock to those players who may have known only Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards as head coaches. Various players ended up spending time in Haley’s dog house for showing up overweight, out of shape and/or unwilling to change their mindset. Branden Albert, Dwayne Bowe, Derrick Johnson, Glenn Dorsey, Jamaal Charles and others had to change their ways.

There should not be those types of problems this year with the players that begin the strength and conditioning sessions at the team’s facility next to Arrowhead Stadium. Any player that shows up more than five pounds over his prescribed weight will likely have his intelligence questioned in very stark language by the head coach. Haley spent a year telling the players what was wanted and what was expected and there was no variation from the end of March until the end of December.

Attendance should be very high for these sessions. As a general rule, these type of programs go anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks around the league, with players doing four sessions each week. It starts with strength and conditioning and then classroom sessions are incorporated and it all leads to OTA sessions and mini-camp.

There are 66 players on the Chiefs roster right now and exactly half of that group was part of the organization on the first day of the program last season. They know what to expect.

There are changes within the structure of what the players will deal with starting this week. There’s a new strength and conditioning coach in Mike Clark. He’s joined the staff after working the last six seasons in Seattle with the Seahawks and the previous 14 years at Texas A&M University. Clark replaces Cedric Smith who moved on to the Houston Texans.

There are also other new coaches they must deal with, including new coordinators for offense and defense in Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. There are other new faces or familiar faces in new places. They will start seeing more and more of the coaches as the weeks go on.

As always, there will be a few holdouts that will not be seen until the Chiefs mandatory mini-camp in June. G Brian Waters and OLB Mike Vrabel missed everything but the mini-camp last year and it’s hard to see them changing their approach this season.

There are also a host of players that ended the season with injuries and had surgeries or extensive rehab in the off-season; they may not be able to fully participate until later in the spring. Charles, Brandon Flowers, Brad Cottam, Maurice Leggett, Jarrad Page, Kolby Smith and Colin Brown all have had work done since the ’09 season ended.

This is the beginning of an important time for other players on the roster as well. A better team comes from adding talent from the outside and developing the talent already on board. This is a time when players like ILB Jovan Belcher, G Colin Brown, DE Bobby Greenwood, WR Quinten Lawrence, CB Donald Washington and last year’s top draft choices DEs Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee show they’ve made another step forward in their development.

It’s imperative that those seven players or others already on the roster make a consistent and winning contribution. The first signs of that will come from how they report for the off-season program and how they progress.

Players without a contract cannot participate in the off-season program. Their only avenue to joining the team is to sign an insurance waiver. As of right now, it appears there are five restricted free agents that have not yet signed their tender offer: QB Brodie Croyle, ILB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, OT Ryan O’Callaghan and S Jarrad Page. There are also four exclusive rights free agents that haven’t signed: LS Thomas Gafford, CB Maurice Leggett, OT Barry Richardson and OLB Andy Studebaker.

Some of those players may have signed their offers already; the Chiefs are not quick to release those details. It would be natural for several of them to sign their deals on Monday or opt for an insurance waiver.

How important are these off-season programs to what happens in the fall and winter? The easy thing would be to say they are important for all 32 teams. But there are a host of clubs where the time spent from March through June is vital, absolutely vital to improvement.

That would include any team that went 4-12 last year; so that would include the Chiefs. They are hardly a well-oiled machine on either side of the ball. Despite the fact a number of veteran players have been added, the core of this team is very young – Charles, Bowe, Albert, Jackson, Magee, Flowers, Studebaker and CB Brandon Carr. They need time together.

Ever since the off-season programs became the way of the NFL world, coaches and players have been fighting over participation. Players are not required to take part in the work at the team’s facilities. But there are very few players who have the standing or power to stay away from their club’s work. Already, new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has made it clear he thinks DT Albert Haynesworth needs to be working at the team’s facilities. Haynesworth showed up for the first day, had a conversation with Shanahan and left.

Most NFL contracts today include a workout bonus that pays the player anywhere from $50,000 to sometimes $500,000 for attending a proscribed number of workouts at the team’s facility. Sometimes that’s still not enough. Two weeks ago, Denver LB D.J. Williams made it known that he’s going to stay in Miami and do his work, by passing a $100,000 workout bonus.

The Patriots have G Logan Mankins staying away from the off-season work there in Foxboro because he’s unhappy with the pace of negotiations on a new contract. Teammate Ty Warren is staying away and forfeiting a $250,000 bonus because he’s working towards getting his college degree. Warren is taking five classes in the spring semester at Texas A&M.

“I try to put the kids in the best educational system possible and I think there is something to be said for their father, who has been blessed to play in the NFL and do something he’s loved to do, going back and finishing what he started,” Warren said from the campus of Texas A&M. “In the big picture, I think it’s important for me to do what I’m doing. I can sacrifice that bonus for that.”

PERSONNEL UPDATE/DAYS #23-24 UPDATE

  • COWBOYS – RFA C Cory Procter signed tender offer.
  • STEELERS – re-signed QB Charlie Batch

3 Responses to “Starting To Sweat … Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • March 29, 2010  - Tracy says:

    Glad to see this column after a weekend hiatus. I was actually trying to find Mel Kiper on the radio yesterday–AAARGH!!!!–when nothing showed up on Sunday.
    It is refreshing to see and hear about players like Ty Warren taking steps to finish requirements for his degree and citing a desire to demonstrate something positive for his children; this is particularly impressive when one considers he is walking away from $250K in doing so.
    It seems that a young team like the Chiefs are more likely than many other teams to benefit from off season workouts and OTAs this year since the advent of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel adds more newness to the mix. The classroom work will certainly include aspects of just what is expected by those two men; Weis’ presence will also allow Todd Haley more time to focus on the broader aspects of head coaching responsibilities.
    We look forward to the draft and all that precedes it.
    Keep up the good work.


  • March 29, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    Glad to see some Chiefs news and I believe if anyone comes in overweight this year they have to be freaking retarded. Haley will not tolerate it a 2nd time.




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