Chiefs coach Edwards says tolerance of poor judgment has a limit
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
Hockey has its penalty box to punish players. Chiefs coach Herm Edwards has what he calls his tolerance box.
And he issued a warning on Tuesday that Chiefs players who have been guilty of poor judgment and costly penalties on the field are coming perilously close to entering the tolerance box.
“It’s a bad box to be in,” Edwards said, “because eventually I’m going to run you out of here.”
Backup cornerback Benny Sapp drew the ire of his teammates and Edwards during last Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati when he was called for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct after the Chiefs had just stopped the Bengals on third down and would have forced a punt.
Sapp compounded his mistakes by jawing with team captains Brian Waters and Donnie Edwards, who were trying to settle him down.
“Certain teams you play, there is some chippiness that goes on in the game, and this was one of those games,” Edwards said. “It started out that way, and you knew it was going to end up that way. We at times didn’t keep our composure. I don’t like that. I don’t believe in that.”
Edwards said he suggested to the game officials that it would be all right with him if they ejected Sapp. Yet Edwards later returned him to the game.
“I’m a very patient man,” Edwards explained. “But I’m also patient in the fact there are two sides of me. I’m patient with you, and then I put you in the tolerance category. When you get put in the tolerance category, I’ll tolerate you until I can replace you.
“The players understand that. There’s a part of me that says: ‘OK, I understand. I was a player and understand what goes on.’ But it’s always disappointing when you lose control of your emotions.”
Sapp wasn’t the only player to let his emotions get the best of him. Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson, for the second time this season, drew what could have been a costly delay-of-game penalty by tossing a ball to the ground after losing yards on a run.
Instead of getting in a heated sideline discussion with Johnson or Sapp after their mistakes, Edwards waited to speak with them behind closed doors and out of the view of national television cameras.
“I have to make sure I don’t lose my (composure), because then it becomes bad … it becomes ‘Da-Da-Da-Da-Da-Da,’ ” he said, chanting the ESPN SportsCenter theme. “A coach is on the sideline arguing with the player. I’m not going to lose my composure over a player who loses his composure.
“I’m not going to shame myself into that. That’s what people are waiting for. That makes television. That makes highlights for the next hour. And then you take away from the game and what’s important. You win yourself a football game, and all they’ll talk about is the head coach getting into it with a player.”
Edwards was acutely concerned about his team’s lack of composure going into Sunday’s game at Oakland, because personal fouls and fisticuffs become a way of life in Chiefs-Raiders games.
“The thing that is glaring about our team that I don’t like,” Edwards said, “is we have 40 fouls, which makes us the (sixth)-most penalized team. That’s embarrassing.”
Edwards takes pride in the fact his teams annually are among the least-penalized teams in the league. His Jets teams were annually among the top five in fewest penalties, including 2001 and 2003, when they were the league’s least-penalized teams.
“We have to get that corrected, because if we don’t get that corrected, we’re going to self-destruct and kill ourselves,” said Edwards, whose Chiefs were the fifth-least-penalized team last year. “If you get four or less penalties a game, you’re pretty good.”
While the Chiefs are averaging 6.7 penalties a game — including eight against Cincinnati — the Raiders, traditionally one of the most penalized teams in the league, have been guilty of 35 penalties in five games, an average of 7.0
“There’s going to be chippiness, no doubt about it,” Edwards said, “and I think the officials know that, and they’re going to be quick to throw the flag, and they’ll be quick to eject guys, too. And if they do, they do.”
While not condoning Johnson’s delay-of-game penalty, Edwards said the new rule that forbids players from tossing the ball after nonscoring plays can be confusing.
“It’s a new rule, a good rule, so the players have to adjust,” Edwards said. “But the rule is a half-rule. You can do certain things. The league said they didn’t want to take the fun out of it, but it’s making it hard for the officials. … If a guy spins the ball in front of (an opponent), that’s taunting and 15 yards. If you spin it away from a guy, that’s not taunting. And if you throw it, it’s 5 yards and a delay. … The poor official …
“I just think when a guy makes a play, and it’s not a touchdown, he should put the ball down and give it to the official. That’s what you should do, whether it’s a good play or bad one.”