it shows the chiefs had a bad line in 2000 and how
Holmes changed it.
Chiefs running game could use Priest
After this latest Chiefs shipwreck, Priest Holmes stood at his locker, and he looked awfully good. There were a couple of reasons for this. One, Holmes has noticeably slimmed down and put on some muscle. It is amazing how much his body has changed in a few short weeks. He is apparently serious about his comeback.
“I’m about 90 percent now,” he says. “I’m ready to go.”
Two, the Chiefs ran for 10 total yards Sunday against Jacksonville. Ten stinking yards. This means that the entire Chiefs running game could not have gotten you from the entrance of the movie theater to the popcorn stand.
Priest Holmes has rarely looked better.
Why has the Chiefs’ running game gone into the sewer? That was the talk of the locker room after the Chiefs’ dead-battery 17-7 loss to the Jaguars. Offensive lineman Brian Waters said it is because of breakdowns. Coach Herm Edwards said it comes down to inconsistency. Running back Larry Johnson rather eloquently said nothing, which was fitting after his performance of nine carries, 12 yards and two disgusted helmet throws. Some blamed the offensive line, some blamed the play calling (which is getting old), some gave credit to Jacksonville’s tough defense.
Nobody wanted to come out and say Larry Johnson isn’t running well.
Nobody, that is, except Priest Holmes.
“I talk to Larry about being more creative,” Holmes said. “I think that’s something he needs to work on. When the other team is putting everything to trying to stop you, you can’t get frustrated. That’s the worst thing you can do. You have to study them and find their weaknesses, and exploit those. There are no excuses. You have to find a way to get yards. And when you get your opening, you have to hit the home run.”
Larry Johnson should cut out that quote, blow it up, put it on his wall and read it every day. He shouldn’t read it to get mad (that strategy obviously isn’t working). He should read it because in that one paragraph is the essence of what made Priest Holmes a great football player. Holmes came to beat you.
Look: Holmes did not have the skills and talents of Larry Johnson. He did not have Johnson’s size, his strength, his speed. Holmes had to overcome devastating injuries and unending doubts. But he became the best running back in the NFL, he set a bunch of records, he scored 66 touchdowns in three seasons, all because of those words — he studied, and he found weaknesses in defenses, and he made no excuses, and he got yards.
People never wanted to give him credit for it. Even now, you will hear people say, “Oh, it was just that Holmes was running behind a great offensive line.”
Baloney. In 2000, the Chiefs were one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL. Their leading rusher had 697 yards. In 2001, with the same caliber of offensive line, Priest Holmes led the NFL in rushing. The next year, the Chiefs added Willie Roaf, Brian Waters came into his own, and Holmes had one of the greatest years in NFL history. The line was good, no doubt. The running back, though, was absolutely fabulous.
Now, watching Johnson fume and mope and get tackled for losses, you can appreciate even more just what Holmes is about. This guy wasn’t even drafted. He overcame two injuries to his ACLs. He came back from a hip injury that doctors thought would end his career. Now, at age 34 (Sunday was his birthday), he shows up at the stadium every day for workouts and team meetings and film sessions, this after a concussion and neck injury so severe he lost feeling in his arms and legs and missed almost two full seasons.
Meanwhile, Larry Johnson moans and kicks the ground because the coaches call on him to run the football when the other team is expecting it.
I don’t know whether Holmes can complete this miracle comeback, but it’s clear now that this is no joke to him. He has gone into seclusion in what he calls Area 51 (the real Area 51 is in Nevada and is where the military secretly tests aircrafts — yes, this column has all sorts of educational value). He has not talked, he has not complained, but you can see by his body change that he has worked out hard. Holmes says he has not missed a meeting. He says he has done everything he can possibly do. After next week’s game against Cincinnati, he hopes and expects to be cleared to put on the helmet and pads and practice with the team. Then we will find out.
Holmes believes he will show everybody something then. He says he’s still got it.
“I didn’t come back to smell the field,” Holmes says. He looks around and smiles. “I sure didn’t come back to smell the locker room. I came back to play.”
That may or may not happen. There are so many factors, so many obstacles, but you know what? It is inspiring. This team needs some of that. Sunday, the Chiefs often looked like dead men walking. After the Chiefs missed an early field goal, you could see all their shoulders slump. After punts, several of the offensive players would walk slowly onto the field, heads down, as if they were heading to the principal’s office. It was about as low-energy a performance as any Chiefs game this decade.
Meanwhile, here’s Priest Holmes quietly going to the stadium every single day and trying to do something that nobody really believes he can do. He’s already got money, fame, records. Still, he’s going at it. He’s doing it for his own reasons, and it’s possible that we will never understand. But he’s showing his heart. That’s easy to understand. How can you not root for a guy like that?
“You know, what Jacksonville was doing was putting a mirror on Larry,” Holmes said after the game. “You know, they had a guy following him wherever he went. I can tell you that’s tough when they start doing that. Wherever you go, he goes. I remember when teams started doing that to me. It’s easy to look out there sometimes and think, ‘Hey, that’s not fair.’ ”
I told Holmes that he never seemed to think that.
“Well,” Holmes said. “You can’t think that way. It doesn’t matter how many guys they put on you … you’ve got to beat them anyway. That’s the job, man.”