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Mr. Laz
06-19-2005, 10:51 AM
Posted on Sun, Jun. 19, 2005

Newcomers look like a good fit

Despite many new faces, Chiefs are already bonding

By ELIZABETH MERRILL
he Kansas City Star


“The bottom line is winning, and I know these guys will welcome anybody who can come in here and help turn this thing around.”

Chiefs cornerback Patrick Surtain


They met over basketball, which seems kind of strange because Lional Dalton is a 315-pound defensive tackle, and Patrick Surtain is a Pro Bowl cornerback. Dalton was a Pistons fan. Surtain, who just joined the Chiefs from Miami, was rooting for the Heat. They'd meet on the Plaza to watch the NBA playoffs, just Dalton, Surtain and a gaggle of their defensive buddies. And a friendship was forged.

“You have to have a thick skin in this locker room,” Dalton said Saturday as his teammates played cards and watched the U.S. Open around him. “We have a lot of comedians. A lot of guys, when they get big contracts, they come in and have big heads. These guys just fit right in. You'd think these guys were free agents off the street or something. They work hard.

“They're good teammates.”

Apparently, somebody agrees. The Chiefs unveiled their new-look team to the public Saturday, and by the end of the day, it was hard to tell what was more surprising: The fact that 15,756 fans showed up to watch a bunch of guys run around in shorts or the statement that coach Dick Vermeil blurted out over his microphone after practice.

Vermeil said this is the best team he's had in five years in Kansas City.

It's certainly had the most offseason hype. In a two-month span, the Chiefs completely overhauled one of the NFL's worst defenses in 2004. They added four potential starters through free-agency and trades. They drafted linebacker Derrick Johnson as a surprise No. 15 pick. On Saturday, another new face joined the fold as free-agent receiver Freddie Mitchell was added to the roster.

Minutes after Vermeil announced Mitchell's arrival, the former Eagle was sitting in the locker room, laughing it up with his new teammates.

In the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, longtime fans Jeff Simmons and Tim Stout said the changes were overdue. They hung their heads in 2004, when the Chiefs had a relatively inactive offseason and kept their entire defensive starting lineup intact.

They shared a late-morning toast Saturday over Johnson, a speedy Texas linebacker who was considered by many as the best defensive player in the draft.

“I think that's why everybody is so excited this year,” Simmons said. “They went out and did what they needed to do.

“I've come to every one of these (sneak previews). There are five times more people than there usually is. We used to always park way up there,” Simmons said, pointing to the front of the stadium.

On Saturday, he parked his Chiefs folding table back in C-9.

There was reason for fan curiosity on Saturday. The offseason shake-up was the biggest in Kansas City since 2001, when Vermeil was hired and quarterback Trent Green, running back Priest Holmes and center Casey Wiegmann joined the team.

In both years, Green said the transition was easy because Vermeil only pursues players who will enhance team chemistry. Vermeil, 68, is the master of team mojo — the man organizes barbecues and team movies. He wants the players to like each other on and off the field. He says the Chiefs organization is like a family. As the team dressed in the locker room after Saturday's practice, several players bounced around with children on their shoulders.

“That's what Coach Vermeil has done since he's been here,” Green said. “He doesn't believe in an offensive side or a defensive side. He believes in a team side. He really stresses the chemistry part of it. He has since day one.

“The people that they sign as free agents and they draft are drafted because they fit into this system and they fit in with the chemistry of the team. There definitely is a chemistry here now.”

It's a mix of old and young, vocal and not-so-vocal. Johnson, whose No. 56 jersey was already being hawked in the concourse Saturday, is schoolboy shy and almost seems embarrassed by all the attention. Veteran safety Sammy Knight, who played with Surtain in Miami last year, is a talkative type who grabbed the microphone Saturday and thanked the fans for coming.

Defensive end Jared Allen said Knight has already emerged as a defensive leader. Knight joined the team in March.

But apparently, there has been little animosity between the newbies who are fighting for starting jobs and the players who are losing them. Surtain, who signed in late April, said the only reason he doesn't feel settled in is because he's living in a house with no furniture.

“They're a great bunch of guys,” Surtain said. “Hard workers. They've been so close over the years, and they know that the window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller, so everybody is hungry to get to that ultimate level. That's the Super Bowl.

“The bottom line is winning, and I know these guys will welcome anybody who can come in here and help turn this thing around.”

Allen agreed. He's quickly befriended rookie linebacker Boomer Grigsby, and the former Division I-AA stars took a water-skiing trip together during the Memorial Day weekend.

Allen has noticed a change in offseason workouts. The defense is faster. The practices are more competitive.

“They came in with a good attitude,” Allen said. “We all had this attitude that we want to fix this thing, and they came in wanting to help.”

To reach Elizabeth Merrill,

Chiefs reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4744 or send e-mail to

unlurking
06-19-2005, 11:07 AM
OK, call me stoopid, but I like some of Merril's articles. They may not be the by the numbers type of news pieces, but a little color commentary I enjoy.

Thig Lyfe
06-19-2005, 12:28 PM
my pants are going to explode. when's football season again?

Ari Chi3fs
06-19-2005, 01:07 PM
this was a good article by this chick... most of her articles suck monkey ass, tho.

Rain Man
06-19-2005, 03:10 PM
Allen agreed. He's quickly befriended rookie linebacker Boomer Grigsby, and the former Division I-AA stars took a water-skiing trip together during the Memorial Day weekend.




Allen and Grigsby are hanging out together? I bet that's entertaining.

|Zach|
06-19-2005, 03:14 PM
OK, call me stoopid, but I like some of Merril's articles. They may not be the by the numbers type of news pieces, but a little color commentary I enjoy.
I like a lot of them.

Mr. Laz
06-19-2005, 03:18 PM
Allen and Grigsby are hanging out together? I bet that's entertaining.
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Wile_E_Coyote
06-19-2005, 03:45 PM
I have read that there was a recent Allen sighting at partycove. They probably had a houseboat full of Daisy Dukes & beer ROFL

NewChief
06-19-2005, 05:27 PM
Allen and Grigsby are hanging out together? I bet that's entertaining.

I'm kind of surprised that they're admitting to water skiing in the off season. I wonder if the coaches will give them any hell for it?

"So, Jared. Why are you out for the first six weeks?"
"Awww man. Pulled a hammy water skiing."

DOH!