It’s a fresh start for Chiefs as offseason conditioning program begins
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Since the last time the Chiefs gathered as a team, they changed their general manager, head coach, most position coaches and the offensive and defensive systems.
The players returned Monday for the beginning of the offseason conditioning program, and their world was different to the point where a veteran like safety Jarrad Page felt like a rookie again.
“Things are going to be a little tighter now,” said Page, a fourth-year player. “Guys won’t be able to get away with things like they did before. The coaches are going to make sure they clamp down now to make sure we get into that mind-set and everybody stays together and nobody feels like they’re above everybody else.”
“I can’t say yes and I can’t say no that it’s better or not better. I know it’s changed and I’m looking forward to it, but I can’t tell you we needed this, that we couldn’t win the old way. I can just tell you I like the situation the way it is now and we’re going to make it work.”
The new head coach, Todd Haley, said the Chiefs had more than 60 players on hand, which would represent almost perfect attendance given that they have 65 players under contract.
Although Haley wouldn’t say, a couple of players said running back Larry Johnson was one of the participants.
One of Haley’s immediate tasks is to change what has become a culture of losing. The Chiefs were 2-14 last year and lost nine straight to end the 2007 season.
Although Haley didn’t dwell on that in his first talk with the team, it was part of his message.
“I tried to offer a little hope that I’ve been somewhere here in the last two years where there hasn’t been a lot of hope and we’ve got to get on the big stage and play for the championship,” said Haley, offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals the last two seasons.
“I’m not going to get into the culture as much as everybody in this building is going to be about winning. We all work too hard and the losses are painful enough. We’ve got a big task.
“I got a true sense of excitement. This building has been real quiet. Once you get the players in here and things start to pick up, they’re definitely the heartbeat of the place. It’s always a fun time of year once they come back in.”
One thing Haley and general manager Scott Pioli will look for over the three months of the offseason program are players who not only like to play football, but work at it, too.
“This is a clean slate for the entire group of Kansas City Chiefs as far as I’m concerned,” Haley said. “We’re at ground zero, and this is an opportunity for everybody. As Scott and I have both said along the line here, we’re looking for guys that want to be Kansas City Chiefs, that want to put their chips all-in and be a part of something special.
“Football has got to be first.”
Johnson and guard Brian Waters during the offseason have asked to be traded or released, and tight end Tony Gonzalez has at times sent mixed signals. Otherwise, Haley’s audience seemed largely receptive to his message.
“Guys are ready for a little bit of a different direction,” said backup safety and special-teams player Jon McGraw. “What we were doing obviously wasn’t working.
“We’ve got to go forward with the decisions that have been made. The best thing guys can do right now is just embrace the change and not resist it. We know things are going to be different. The guys they brought in are football people. They have the background and the credibility to come in and turn around this program. There’s no reason for me or for anyone to doubt that.”
The Chiefs will play home games against Houston and Seattle and road games against Minnesota and St. Louis in the preseason.
Specific dates are to be announced, but the Chiefs will open the exhibition schedule at Arrowhead Stadium against the Texans the weekend of Aug. 13-17. Following is the game at Minnesota (Aug. 20-24), the meeting with Seahawks (Aug. 27-31) and the finale with the Rams (Sept. 3-4).
The Chiefs will begin the regular season Sept. 13, and for the first time in three years, the opener could be at Arrowhead because the Royals play in Cleveland that day.