It wasn’t perfect attendance for the first day of the Pioli/Haley Era at Arrowhead.
Right now, they have 65 players under contract. The head coach said Monday afternoon some 60 players were there for the team meeting and the strength and conditioning sessions.
That’s not 100 percent when all the heads were counted. But 92 percent ain’t bad.
Of course all anybody wanted to know was the eight percent who were not in the building. It was not a surprise that Todd Haley wasn’t going to provide a roll call. Who could blame him? Not many coaches would talk negatives when asked to summarize the first team meeting of their tenure.
“To have my coaches and the team together in one room was exciting stuff for me,” Haley said Monday afternoon. “It was exciting to get in front of the team, talk to them and kind of lay it out there what my expectations were and what was going to be asked of them over the next 12 weeks of the off-season.”
Larry Johnson was spotted in the building, but it’s notÂ known if he took part in any activities.Â There was no word on Brian Waters and Tony Gonzalez.
The attention wasÂ on strength and conditioning on the first day, other than Haley speaking to the group for the first time. That’s how it will stay for the first several weeks; Haley says the physical end is most important right now.
“The coaches and the players are chomping at the bit,” Haley said. “It is a tough deal because it is a new staff, new system, some new terminology and other things. Guys get a little anxious but we have a camp coming up here the weekend before the draft and that week we will probably spend a little classroom time so they can get a feel for what will be going on to help them through the camp.”
I think it’s safe to say that if there were 60 players in the house and there were five players who did not show up … well, if they had not cleared their absence ahead of time, those five names will be burned in the brains of Haley and Scott Pioli. Heck, even if the players provided prior notice, it’s something this pair will remember.
As important as this time will be for the players, it’s also very important for Pioli, Haley and the staff. This is when they get a chance to see what they have in flesh and blood, rather than on tape. They have impressions based on the production they saw from these guys over 16 game tapes. Certainly Pioli is familiar with their backgrounds since he’s been preparing for the NFL Draft for the last decade. Haley did some of that as well during his time as assistant coach recently in Dallas and Arizona.
Nothing beats seeing players up close and personal. As a guy Haley knows well, Artie Rooney Jr. the guy who ran the Pittsburgh Steelers personnel department in the 1970s once called it, “judging the horseflesh.” He picked that up from his father, Art Rooney Sr., the man who was able to pay for his football team more than 75 years ago with his winnings from the Saratoga horse racing track.
Horse racing junkies love to hang around the stables and watch workouts. Pioli’s father-in-law Bill Parcells is one of those guys. They’ll stand at the rail and watch horses run all day and file away little snapshots of information. Then comes race day and they use all those little snapshots they’ve filed away and make decisions on horses and jockeys. It isn’t so much the idea of betting money to win; it’s the idea of being able to identify the winning horses. Winning money is just a nice result.
This will go on for the next 12 weeks around the Chiefs facility. Pioli/Haley will be standing at the rail, watching this stable of football players they inherited. They are looking to see how these players handle themselves, what type of work ethic they display, how willing they are to accept coaching and how willing they are to accept change. The new regime is looking for players who love the game, who put football on a level where it is so important to their lives that they’ll put in extra time to get in shape and to learn the team’s schemes on all sides of the ball.
They are determined to find 53 players who live, eat and sleep football. They do not want to be bothered by players who have other agendas, who are preparing for life after football, who aren’t in the boat with all oars in the water. That’s something they want to see in March-April-May, not just August-September-October.
Those returning players that learn to adapt will flourish under Pioli/Haley. Those that can’t change will be left on the side of the road in the coming weeks and months.
That process started on Monday.
PRE-SEASON OPPONENTS AND SITES SET BY LEAGUE
The league took over the scheduling of pre-season games about 10 years ago. The teams used to do this among themselves, but teams like Cincinnati and Arizona had trouble getting games to create good gate receipts, so the league office took over.
Each team gets to name one opponent, generally based on rivalries. For instance, the Chiefs play the St. Louis Rams every year. Just as the Cowboys and Texans have an annual game and the Steelers and Eagles, Jets and Giants and Raiders and 49ers.
This year the league did a good job of making this pre-season schedule work geographically. For games that don’t count in the standings, there’s no reason that a team from the east coast should have to go to the west coast or vice-a-versa. This year, there’s only one such game, as San Diego has to fly to Atlanta.
Along with that game, there are only five others where a team has to go two time zones to play: Arizona to Pittsburgh, Dallas and New Orleans to Oakland, San Francisco to Dallas and Seattle to Kansas City.
The Chiefs will not leave the Central Time Zone for its four-game schedule. The two home games are yawners, in Houston and Seattle. The best game of the four is the meeting at the Metrodome against Jared Allen and the Vikings.
It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs stay at River Falls for camp until that game. Right now, they are tentatively scheduled to head for Wisconsin on Thursday, July 30. If they come home for the Houston game at Arrowhead, they might just stay and treat the Vikings game as a real road trip. All decisions to come that must be made by Pioli/Haley.
SAINTS – re-signed QB Joey Harrington.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on March 31, 1957 in New Castle, Pennsylvania was DE Bruce Clark.
He played eight seasons in the NFL, including the 1989 season with the Chiefs.
Clark appeared in 11 games that season. A former first-round draft choice out of Penn State, he was the fourth player selected in 1980, taken by the Green Bay Packers. But Clark signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and ended up playing two seasons north of the border.
He came back to the NFL and played seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints before landing in Kansas City.