RIVER FALLS, Wis. | Tuesday morning you could hear it, the kind of football team Herm Edwards wants to build.
The morning practice sounded like a football game. I was standing along the sideline wanting to gossip with other reporters, but the explosions and grunts kept distracting me.
In the modern NFL — with year-round training, organized team activities, a limited training-camp roster and gigantic contracts — it’s rare that a team practices anywhere close to game tempo. The Chiefs did Tuesday morning. You could hear it. You could feel it. It was impossible to ignore.
“It’s been a pretty physical couple of practices,” Edwards said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do the last three practices. The first two were very good — (Monday) both practices were, in the morning and afternoon — and this one was OK.”
Edwards’ standards are high. I’ve been coming to River Falls since 1995, and Tuesday’s session was as physical as any I’d seen beyond Marty Schottenheimer’s somewhat pointless “Oklahoma drills.”
Marty used the Oklahoma drills (two-on-two blocking and tackling drills) to set a tone for a team that already had a set-in-stone, tough-guy personality. Herm is trying to establish a similar personality/mind-set, and he’s going 11-on-11 to get it.
The fact is, Dick Vermeil’s teams had some awfully tough players (Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Tony Richardson and Will Shields), but for the most part, Herm inherited a finesse team. He struggled last year trying to cultivate the kind of overall toughness he wanted during training camp for a variety of reasons:
1. Too many veterans (Shields, Trent Green, Sammy Knight, Patrick Surtain, Ty Law, Kendrell Bell, Tony Gonzalez, etc.).
2. A team-wide mind-set that the Chiefs could go deep in the playoffs if the players were rested and fresh.
3. Complacency and a lack of competition for starting spots.
4. The belief that KC’s pass-happy, finesse offense would carry the team.
This team has a different attitude and a different set of beliefs.
The Chiefs are going to go as far as their defense and running game can carry them.
“My mind-set is very simple,” Edwards said. “At the end of the year offensively, my goal is … that you want to run the ball for 2,000 yards total. Whether you have one runner who can do it, three runners, four runners, two runners, it doesn’t matter. You have to understand that. Then, from there, your passing game evolves.
“On defense, you obviously have to be able to stop the run. You have to be able to stop the run so you can unleash your athletic defensive line to knock the quarterback down in passing situations. So, it all kind of plays hand-to-hand what we’re trying to create and practice.”
Translation: Herm Edwards isn’t going to apologize for being Herm Edwards this year. He’s not going to be defensive about scrapping Dick Vermeil’s offense. He’s not going to ask forgiveness for attempting to reach the Super Bowl the same way Lovie Smith and the Bears got there last season.
Herm is a liberated man. You could hear it Tuesday morning. He let his dogs out for three straight practices. That’s what you have to do if you want Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Donnie Edwards, Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page to win games for you in September. They have to practice being physical and dominant and nasty.
And so do Waters, John Welbourn, Casey Wiegmann, Chris Terry and Damion McIntosh, KC’s starting offensive linemen.
“In training camp, a lot of coaches are nervous about pads and fearful of wearing players out,” Edwards said. “But I just think that if you give them enough rest and you do it in sequence and you do it smart, they buy in. I’ve told these guys from the start that this is hump week for us, and they understood that and a lot of them focused in and got the job done.
“I think the offensive line has done a good job. I think it’s a veteran crew of guys that are very tough and very physical, and we’re running the ball pretty well right now. That’s a good sign.”
So was all the noise.