Holmes just happy to take some hits
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
Priest Holmes’ first play from scrimmage in nearly two years resulted in a 6-yard loss on a pass play.
OAKLAND, Calif. | Priest Holmes was the first Chiefs player on the field Sunday morning, catching passes from running-backs coach James Saxon nearly three hours before kickoff.
Holmes knew exactly how long it has been since he last played in an NFL game.
“Seven hundred and twenty-one days,” Holmes said of Oct. 30, 2005, the day he suffered head and neck trauma after taking a hit in game at San Diego.
Holmes’ long-awaited return came at 1:37 p.m. Pacific time and with 2 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ 12-10 victory at McAfee Coliseum.
He lost 6 yards on a check-down pass from quarterback Damon Huard.
It didn’t matter.
For the first 18 months after he was drilled by San Diego’s Shawne Merriman, Holmes said he didn’t have feeling and sensation in certain parts of his body.
So in the sunshine of McAfee Coliseum, Holmes experienced the feelings and sensations he missed for the last 721 days.
The much-anticipated feeling of getting tackled. The thrilling sensation of picking up a critical first down on an 8-yard run with less than 3 minutes left in the game. The gratification of contributing to a victory that put the Chiefs, 4-3, atop the AFC West.
“People asked me, ‘What was the first play going to look like?’” Holmes said. “I said, ‘I’m either going to drop the ball, have a negative play, score a touchdown or have a 3-yard run. It really doesn’t matter because it’s a matter of getting in there at an opportune time.
“I was excited to get that first hit out of the way early, and when there came an opportunity to really use me, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter. When you’re the third-down back, there are only so many opportunities you’re going to get, because you definitely want your No. 1 guy having a good day.”
The No. 1 guy, Larry Johnson, pounded out 112 yards in 24 carries (a 4.7 average) against an Oakland run defense that had been surrendering a league-worst 5.6 yards per rush.
“The yards haven’t come as easy as he might have wanted,” Holmes said of Johnson, who was not available to reporters. “Definitely the last two years, it’s a lot different now. But he’s still LJ. Nothing has changed. He runs the plays the same way. He has the same talent, the same skill. None of that has changed.”
Holmes and Johnson appeared in the backfield together a handful of times, giving the Raiders’ defense something extra to think about. After Johnson broke loose for a career-best 54-yarder in the third quarter, Holmes replaced him and was stopped for no gain on a sweep right.
Holmes, the Chiefs’ career rushing leader and NFL rushing champion in 2001, finished with just 9 yards in four carries, but it was a start.
“For a guy who hadn’t played in a long time, he made a heck of a play in the fourth quarter,” coach Herm Edwards said.
Holmes has been envisioning this day since he reported to training camp July 29.
“I still have a long ways to go,” Holmes said. “There were times when I tried to get down (before he was driven out of bounds in the fourth quarter), but the body wouldn’t get down.
“But just to come back and be able to say, all those workouts, all the commitment to getting up at 7 a.m., coming to camp completely out of shape, and knowing I had eight to 10 weeks to get ready, it’s been a really great ride. And I’m here enjoying the fruits of my labor.”
His teammates are enjoying the ride, too.
“It was great,” gushed tight end Tony Gonzalez. “When Larry got a little tired, if you can put a guy like Priest Holmes back there. … He’s only going to get better, and it’s going to help us. If we keep building on that, by the end of the year, they’re going to be, if not the best, one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL.”