From the Truman Sports Complex
Matt Cassel proved to be a living, breathing, engaging Chiefs quarterback on Saturday as he met with the Kansas City media face-to-face between practices at the team’s mini-camp.
WHERE IS TONY G? CHECK IT OUT AFTER THE JUMP.
If you like personable, you’ll like Cassel. The young man walked into the room filled with over a dozen media types and went person to person, shaking hands and beginning the preliminary task of putting names with faces.
And he then handled about five minutes of questions, and did it all with a smile on his face.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Cassel said. “I’m excited about being here. I’m excited about the coaching staff and everything going on. We are setting the environment, we are setting the foundation right now, and we are getting better.”
According to Cassel, he hasn’t approached the last month with the Chiefs any different than say last off-season with the Patriots when he was a backup to Tom Brady.
“Like I’ve always done, I’ve gotten in here and get going with football and I’ll work as hard as I can and put myself in the best physical and mental position going into the season,” Cassel said.
He promises that nothing will change his approach.
“I had the great opportunity of learning from a guy like Tom Brady, who is a professional in every sense of the word, a guy that I look up to and still talk to on a weekly basis,” Cassel said. “As a young quarterback, he taught me how to be a professional and a starting quarterback in this NFL. He’s a guy that never took it for granted.
“That’s something I take with me as I move on in my career away from the Patriots and here with the Chiefs.”
When Cassel first talked with the K.C. media he was on a speaker phone, even though he was in the Chiefs building. Apparently management was concerned about making him look like a “savior”. No matter how he’s viewed outside the building, the guys in the locker room are ready to follow him. The quarterback is always a leader of a team, and it’s a very new role for Cassel. Even last year when he replaced Brady, he was walking into a veteran team with plenty of leaders who could handle the duties in absence of the starting quarterback.
“You step into the role as a quarterback, as the known leader,” Cassel said. “You have to show first by going out there and demonstrating that in workouts and your day-to-day activity and show everybody by example rather than what you say. As you earn their respect in what you do, you are able to use your voice a little more.”
And, what has Cassel found upon arriving and working with the Chiefs over the last three weeks?
“Everybody is out here and we are getting better,” Cassel said. “We are a talented team and what I think makes great teams is playing together and being consistent and fundamentally sound on a day-to-day basis. If you are inconsistent in one area or you’re not all on the same page, you are not going to have a good product out there on the field
“So if we can get together now and put all the pieces together, we can have a very good team.”
THE CHIEFS WERE WORKING … WHERE WAS TONY G?
Go back and read that next to last quote from Cassel, especially the part about “… what I think makes great teams is playing together and being consistent and fundamentally sound on a day-to-day basis.”
On Thursday, Tony Gonzalez reportedly attended a football practice.
On Friday and Saturday, Gonzalez was nowhere to be seen at mini-camp at the Chiefs facility.
According to the Orange County Register, Gonzalez was an onlooker at Thursday’s session of spring practice at UCLA. More than likely he was there with former Chiefs tight ends coach Jon Embree, who reportedly will work this year as a grad assistant on the staff of head coach Rick Neuheisel. Embree’s son Taylor is a wide receiver on the UCLA roster.
Of course, Gonzalez could drive to the UCLA campus from is SoCal home. Apparently, he couldn’t fly to Kansas City to work out with his team.
That Gonzalez was not in Kansas City this weekend was not a surprise. Again, the camp is voluntary. The Chiefs and Haley will hold a mandatory mini-camp in June. The fact he’s been absent from the team’s off-season strength and conditioning program is not a surprise either. Nobody questions Gonzalez and his commitment to keeping in shape and getting ready for the grind of the NFL season. He’s done that before.
But Tony Gonzalez needed to be here this weekend to show his commitment to the 2009 Chiefs. He’s got a new quarterback and he should be taking this weekend’s opportunity to get to know him and catch a few passes from Cassel and get to know other new faces on the team.
Does he need to be part of this mini-camp to make himself a better player? No. Did the team need him in the house to make the Chiefs a better team? Absolutely.
Over the next week, Gonzalez can sit back at home and wait to see if he’s traded before or during the NFL Draft. But if he’s still a member of the Chiefs come the evening of April 26th, he should be on a red-eye flight to K.C. and working with his teammates for the rest of the off-season.
Gonzalez wasn’t the only one missing. So was Brian Waters. That didn’t come as a surprise, given the fact Waters reportedly asked to be traded after a first meeting with Haley that did not go well. He too needs to get in the building and begin working with new offensive line coach Bill Muir.
Yes the camp was voluntary. Yes both Gonzalez and Waters are veterans. Yes, they are both Pro Bowl caliber talents. But, neither one has ever won a game in the playoffs. Both were part of the Chiefs teams that went 6-26. They may not want to accept responsibility for that, but they have no choice. It’s on their record too.
The only other no-show for the mini-camp weekend was LB Mike Vrabel. No word on why he missed his first Chiefs mini-camp, but he does have three Super Bowl rings. That’s not a good excuse for missing the camp. Veteran additions like LB Zach Thomas and G Mike Goff were there. Vrabel should have been there too.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on April 19, 1968 in Gunnison, Mississippi was WR Tim Barnett
(right). A third-round choice by the Chiefs in the 1991 NFL Draft out of Jackson State, Barnett played three seasons with the team (1991-93), appearing in 44 games with 11 starts. Barnett caught 81 passes for 1,188 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Chiefs.
Born on April 19, 1962 in Ft. Collins, Colorado was S Jeff Donaldson. He played 10 seasons in the NFL, including the 1990 season with the Chiefs, seeing action in 16 games and making nine starts. He had three interceptions that season. Donaldson also played with Houston and Atlanta.
LB Rick Hamilton was born on April 19, 1970 in Inverness, Florida. He played in two games with the Chiefs in the 1994 season.
Born on April 19, 1957 in South Bend, Indiana was LB Phil Cancik. He played in 16 games and started once with the Chiefs in the 1981 season.