Midway through the third quarter of Thursday’s NFL exhibition game at Arrowhead Stadium, long after I’d decided Larry Johnson had had another productive night, I asked Kansas City’s media-relations staff where was locker-room leader Priest Holmes.

“He’s here, but I haven’t seen him,” said Pete Moris.

“He’s here somewhere,” offered Bob Moore.

You might think I’m a little obsessed with Priest Holmes and his comeback. Maybe I am. I find it rather fascinating — the dishonesty of it, the attention it’s receiving on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” his comments about taking some of Larry Johnson’s money.

There were no great developments during the Chiefs’ excruciatingly boring 11-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Trent Green looked old, kicker Justin Medlock looked like a mistake, Damon Huard looked like a backup, Brodie Croyle looked inexperienced and talented, and the Chiefs looked like a team that will struggle to score and fill the seats all season.

Oh, and Larry Johnson looked brilliant for continuing to hold out and demand more guaranteed money. Michael Bennett and Kolby Smith just aren’t the kind of threats that will relieve pressure on Kansas City’s struggling quarterbacks.

And Priest Holmes, the man who promised to be a leader, an inspiration to his young teammates, a symbol of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle, well, I still don’t know where he was Thursday.

He wasn’t on the sideline. Hey, maybe there was some sort of emergency and Priest couldn’t attend Thursday’s game. If so, Moore and Moris, Carl Peterson’s right- and left-hand men, knew nothing about it. (I hope Gretz doesn’t get jealous reading all this stuff about Moore and Moris.)

When the Chiefs finally do sign Johnson, I believe Holmes will get what he’s wanted all along — his unconditional release. He doesn’t want to play for the Chiefs. Not under his current contract.

Why play for $870,000, when he can sign a contract with a team in his home state — Dallas or Houston — for the same money with maybe a few incentive bonuses?

When Holmes opened his mouth about wanting Johnson’s money, I took it as a demand to be cut. Holmes knows his comments infuriated Larry, one of the most sensitive players in professional sports.

The two running backs have never gotten along. They coexisted for two years. No way they coexist now. If you thought Larry was upset about Dick Vermeil’s diaper remarks, he has to be livid with Holmes.

There’s an unwritten and respected rule among professional athletes that you do not inject yourself in any way into another man’s contract negotiations. Brett Favre broke that rule when he criticized Javon Walker for staging a holdout. Favre is an NFL legend who gets a free pass for his shortcomings, especially from media representatives.

Holmes won’t get a pass from Johnson. He doesn’t deserve it in the Chiefs’ locker room, either. His whole Kansas City comeback bid is a farce. He’s sucking up airtime on “Hard Knocks” as a marketing tool.

You might read this and think I dislike Priest Holmes. I don’t. We did some events together when he was in his heyday. I wrote in favor of him receiving a contract extension. I just don’t like the way he has handled things since he was injured at San Diego. I have no problem with him playing games with Peterson. That’s business. It’s Holmes’ manipulation of the media that bugs me. And his jealousy directed at Johnson.

I’m not in the tank for Johnson, either. This offseason I presented both sides of the LJ debate. I pointed out the reasons the Chiefs shouldn’t pay him, and I allowed LJ to make the case for why he’s more mature and why he should be paid.

It’s still a very difficult decision for Peterson and the Chiefs. But Priest Holmes should have nothing to do with the decision. He has virtually no interest in playing here.

After the contest, I asked Herm Edwards whether his 33-year-old locker-room leader was at the game.

“He was here,” Edwards said. “I think he might’ve been up (in a suite) because he didn’t want to do any interviews.”

Hmm. That’s the first one he’s turned down in three weeks.