Kennison will take what he can get in return to Chiefs
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
(DAVID EULITT/The Kansas City Star--09092007--CHIEFS TEXANS--Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison grimaced in pain after an injury to his right leg on the opening offensive play by the Chiefs against the Houston Texans on the opening week of the NFL regular season, September 9, 2007, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. Kennison did not return and the Chiefs lost 20-3.)
The world Eddie Kennison will step back into for Sunday’s home game against Jacksonville is much different from the one he left with a hamstring injury four weeks ago.
Rookie Dwayne Bowe took advantage of Kennison’s absence to establish himself, at least for now, as quarterback Damon Huard’s favorite target among Chiefs wide receivers.
Kennison has a serious challenger to be the Chiefs’ top wide receiver for the first time since he arrived in 2001. If he has to give that title up, he said he won’t do that without a fierce battle.
“I’ve had to be in a supporting role for the last four games,” said Kennison, who pulled his hamstring on the first offensive play of the season and hasn’t played since. “If I have to do the same thing now, then so be it. But I’m a competitor. I want to start. I want to go out and help this football team right away. There’s no way I want to sit back and take a bench role and go in when somebody else gets tired. No way. I want to start.”
Kennison will start Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium, replacing Samie Parker. Kennison participated in team drills Wednesday and isn’t listed on the daily injury report for the first time since he got hurt.
The issue is how Kennison fits into an offense committed to throwing the ball to Bowe and Tony Gonzalez and getting it to Larry Johnson one way or another. It’s about how Kennison would accept a supporting role that has been filled by other Chiefs wide receivers for almost six years.
“I’ll take whatever’s there,” Kennison said. “We’ve got four quarters of football, and there’s plenty of time to do a lot of stuff. What the defense does will determine what Damon does with the ball. Dwayne’s playing great. Tony’s playing great. With the way they’re playing and with what Larry is capable of, they have to pick their poison. If the defense decides to double against Dwayne and Tony, that means I’m man to man and I’ll get more shots.
“Eddie Kennison is still a big threat in the National Football League. With Dwayne stepping up, that makes our offense that much more fierce.”
Kennison isn’t the classic Chad Johnson-type of wide receiver who throws tantrums or gets in the face of his quarterback when he doesn’t get the ball often. He has generally accepted his fate of being a lesser light in an offense filled with Pro Bowl players.
He has been, by all accounts, a good teammate. Before and during his four-game absence, he has been a mentor for Bowe and other Chiefs receivers. In an unusual move, the Chiefs took him on road trips during his injury because they wanted his positive influence.
Still, as Chiefs wide receiver coach Charlie Joiner said, “Have you ever seen a receiver who didn’t complain about not getting the ball when he’s not getting the ball? They all do. They all want the ball.
“But that never reflects on how Eddie plays the game. He always plays hard. You don’t have to worry about that. I know I don’t ever worry about that.”
The Chiefs are welcoming Kennison back in the hopes he will give them an additional option to Bowe, Gonzalez and Johnson. Wide receivers other than Bowe have only 12 catches and zero touchdowns.
“I don’t think Eddie will miss a beat,” coach Herm Edwards said. “Mentally, he’s been into the game. He knows what to do.”
The Chiefs collectively gasped when Kennison was injured. He at the time was their only established wide receiver, with 1,000-plus-yard seasons in 2004 and 2005. He slipped to 860 yards last year, but that’s more a reflection on the general decline in the Chiefs’ passing game than on Kennison.
They know now, thanks to Bowe’s emergence, that they can survive without Kennison. That’s why Kennison doesn’t want to waste any time reminding the Chiefs what he’s capable of doing.
“There’s no grace period in football,” he said. “We’ve got a game on Sunday, and it’s an important game and it’s full-go. I don’t expect anything less than what I’ve been doing. It doesn’t change just because I’m coming back from an injury.”