Aug 03, 2007, 6:15:14 AM by Eileen Weir - FAQ
What would training camp kickoff be without the predicable crop of conspiracy theories and hidden agendas making the rounds? With the hold out of the Chiefs most prolific performer of the past two seasons and the team’s first round draft pick still at-large, the rumor mill has discovered plenty of silage on which to grind. Turning ordinary occurrences like non-reporting veterans and late-signing rookies into proof of malevolent scheming is what keeps papers in print during the often hum-drum weeks of two-a-days.
Adding to the drama of preseason preparations has been the surprise re-emergence of Chiefs All Pro running back Priest Holmes. Images of a debilitated former sensation helplessly watching his team falter in post-season play, desperately needing the services of its once indomitable star makes for great cinema. Raising himself gingerly from his leather-upholstered seat in an epic mission to return to his past greatness for the sake of his suffering brethren, the reclusive superhero vows to once again battle his own inner demons and physical limits for the betterment of humanity. Pixar should make that movie and call it “The Incredibles.”
The spontaneous homecoming of Holmes has solicited more scrutiny than the Zapruder film and has generated at least as much speculation.
In the wake of Holmes’ somewhat unusual press conference in which he attempted to enlighten fans and media as to his state of mind, head-scratching analysts in the private and public spheres are weaving all manner of fantastical folk lore about the motives of Holmes and Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson. Not surprisingly the chronically suspicious who dwell among us smell a rat, insisting Holmes’ return is a choreographed move by the team’s GM to exploit both Holmes and hold-out running back Larry Johnson.
To paraphrase a Woody Allen line from Annie Hall, here is where commentary and dissent merge to form dysentery.
While fans and stakeholders in the team are seeking genuine insights into the development of young players and the endurance of old ones, we are treated only to the tiresome trend of accusing top team personnel of maliciously scheming to cheat players out of legitimate contract awards. The mood between the GM and the media which spans the range from forced tolerance to unmasked disdain causes many in the media and the fan base they inform to instinctively distrust and dispute any statement made by the team on player acquisition and retention. The net result is a heavy skepticism over the second-coming of Priest Holmes.
Try this on for size. The Chiefs are paying Holmes to come to work and have been paying him for the nearly two years that he has spent rehabilitating from what many presumed to be a career-ending affliction. After receiving what equates to paid medical leave, Holmes shows up at the office to a chorus of congratulations and wonderment. I’m pretty disappointed that last time I walked in the door and punched the clock, no one bothered to express their astonishment that I showed up or applaud me for making it in that day. How ‘bout you? Anyone cheer for your arrival at the salt mine Monday morning?
I don’t minimize the impact Holmes has had on the success of the Kansas City Chiefs nor do I fault him – as some do – for taking his time to reinsert himself into the Kansas City scene. Frankly, I was in the camp of fans who believed Holmes would never play professional football again. Despite his name remaining on the roster, Holmes could not have been further from my mind during his absence. If he is triumphant in mounting a legitimate comeback that re-establishes him as one of the league’s premiere players, his story of courage and achievement will be unrivaled in the world of sports.
Much like I objected to comments from Peterson that quarterback Trent Green “deserved” to be treated as one of the game’s elite players, attracting upper-tier money and draft picks in exchange for his services, I have a similar aversion to the GM’s remarks that Holmes “deserves” a chance to reinvent and revive his stellar career. As a fan of the team, I feel players are entitled to an equal opportunity to compete for roster spots and payment commensurate with their talent and experience. Throughout the Green negotiations I felt no obligation to provide for his future happiness and wealth, and I now feel no compulsion to extend Holmes special exemptions based on past performance. Considering he has remained on the payroll throughout his long respite, I maintain the team owes him no more, and no less, than a fair shot.
Accusations that Peterson lured Holmes back to lair of the elegantly appointed Executive Office Suites in order to set in motion a complex stratagem forcing Larry Johnson into a drastic change of heart are convenient and absolutely consistent with the Machiavellian persona Kansas Citians attach to the team’s CEO. While negotiation of high-profile and high-dollar contracts are apt to require cunning on both sides, it is unlikely Peterson had much if any influence over the timing of Holmes’ reporting. If Holmes is to be taken at his word, the decision was entirely his own based on his evaluation of his health and his desire to contribute to an employer whose check he is cashing.
Will it help get the considerable skills of Johnson into camp? Let’s hope so.