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Tribal Warfare
09-14-2008, 02:03 AM
Huard returns to lead Chiefs' offense (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/795926.html)
BY KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star


The forgotten man leans on the lectern and rests his hands on the rails. He has been here before. He knows the routine.

It’s odd to see him here again. The Chiefs had moved on, past the 30-somethings and the tired bodies, the weathered men with gray in their goatees, like the one Damon Huard is scratching behind that lectern.

“Welcome back,” he says, smiling. “I guess it is close to Halloween.”

And this year, like parts of so many others, Huard is dressed as a starting quarterback. He’s back behind a microphone and back in the starting lineup, filling in while a team regroups. This time, the Chiefs are sending in Huard while Brodie Croyle’s separated right shoulder heals. Once Croyle is back, they’ll send Huard back to the bench. He knows that routine, too.

Huard has been released four times in his 12-year career and demoted a hundred more, each time told that he’s not the man for this team — until they need him to be.

A month ago, the Chiefs were finished with Huard. At 35, he’s the second-oldest player — linebacker Donnie Edwards is three months older — on the NFL’s youngest team. Huard spent the preseason as Kansas City’s third quarterback, watching as Croyle and Tyler Thigpen took most of the snaps. There was talk of releasing or trading him.

Either way, he wouldn’t factor into the Chiefs’ plans — as long as their plans didn’t change. Then rookie Jamaal Charles blocked the Patriots’ safety last Sunday instead of their linebacker, and that linebacker, Adalius Thomas, forced Croyle to the turf, nearly 500 pounds of force driving Croyle’s shoulder into the ground.

Croyle staggered off the field. Charles apologized. Huard slid on his helmet and went to work.

“That has kind of been my role,” he says. “For most of my career, coming off the bench, going in there and filling in when need be.”

Huard won’t get much thanks. A helmet pat here or a fist bump there. But whether Huard wins or loses every game between today and Croyle’s return, it won’t matter.

“If Damon wins games, that’s great,” coach Herm Edwards says. “But when Brodie is healthy, he’ll go back in there.”

It’s a tired movie plot, but it’s a good one. The old cowboy rides in when no one else can or will, and everyone is counting on him to stare down the bad news and leave town a hero.

It’s a job, he’ll say. And after it’s done, he’ll be gone again.

• • •

Damon Huard squinted into the sunlight, Clint Eastwood style, as he walked off the practice field in River Falls, Wis. He was carrying his helmet in one hand, patting Brodie Croyle’s shoulder with the other.

They were walking off the field together, as they did most days, and Huard had some encouraging words for the young quarterback. Ten years separates them, a lifetime in this league.

Croyle kept walking, and Huard stopped. He watched as Croyle walked toward the locker room, like an older brother watching his last sibling graduate from college.

“He’s been anointed,” Huard said on that warm August afternoon. “He knows it’s his job and that he’s the guy.”

And that meant Huard was not. Edwards said weeks earlier that Croyle was the starter and the 24-year-old Thigpen was the backup. That slid Huard to the third spot — an uncomfortable place for a middle-aged quarterback on a team doing its damnedest to go younger.
The Chiefs want to draft players and keep them in Kansas City. Huard entered camp representing all that the Chiefs were trying to leave behind: an aging journeyman whose best years are behind him.

Huard said on the practice field that day that his role was to mentor Croyle. He would be an honorary coach, trying to help Croyle adjust to leading.

“It’s hard to win a football game in the NFL if we’re not in it together,” Huard said then.

Huard was always on his own. His rookie year was 12 years ago in Cincinnati, when the Bengals brought in an undrafted free agent from Washington. He took snaps in training camp, but Cincinnati released him.

He went to Miami and later won a pair of Super Bowls in New England as a reserve. He was almost always the backup. But he kept coming back, the guy coaches pointed to when they needed a smart veteran.

Huard says he doesn’t remember when he stopped worrying about being a team’s franchise quarterback. He grew comfortable and stoked his fire by knowing his time would occasionally come.

“You see the guys get hurt in this league,” he says now. “Some (backup) guys think, ‘Oh, I’m not going to play.’ But it happens. You’re forced in there; you either get the job done or you don’t. When you do, you survive and last long in this league.”

• • •

It’s been two years since Huard bailed out Kansas City the first time. It was September 2006, when Trent Green suffered a concussion in the Chiefs’ home opener. Huard started the next eight games, winning five — and then the starting job was Green’s again.

Huard started the first nine games last year, but then it was Croyle’s turn. The Chiefs wanted to develop their young guy. Huard said he understood.

He also understood why, during this year’s preseason, the Chiefs weren’t putting the ball in his hands. He attempted 17 passes in three preseason games; Croyle and Thigpen shared the rest.

Huard admits his muscles don’t fire up like they once did, but his mind still does. He says he doesn’t know how much practice he needed; Huard just did what he was told.

He would have been expendable if Thigpen had performed as the Chiefs hoped. Huard kept saying he would practice as if he were the starter, and meanwhile, Thigpen was proving unreliable. After three months as the third quarterback, Huard was picked late last week as Kansas City’s backup.

“He’s a pro,” Edwards says now.

That’s about as fine a compliment a coach can give an aging backup. It means Huard is ready all the time. It means the team can count on him with a moment’s notice.

It also means that regardless of his status, and whether he’ll be in Kansas City today or on the waiver wire tomorrow, he’s been a good sport about it all.

• • •

So what if the impossible happens? What if the quarterback who, six weeks ago, was the Chiefs’ perceived worst chance to win, becomes their best chance?

Croyle could miss up to four weeks, and during that time the Chiefs play the Raiders and Falcons, two of the NFL’s worst teams. The Chiefs haven’t won a game in nearly a year, and today represents the best chance they’ve had in nearly that long. If Huard wins, and then wins next week, and then maybe the next week, then …

“We’ve invested a lot in Brodie,” Edwards says. “We want to see if he can do it. He has to play.”

Say the Chiefs are 4-1 under Huard, and keeping in mind Croyle is 0-7 as a starter, that still means …

“That’s the direction we’re heading,” Edwards says.

Edwards says the development of the Chiefs’ young players might be more important than winning games this year. For better or worse, Kansas City has to find out what it has in Croyle.

Although most of the Chiefs are younger than 30, some are not. And those aging players want to win now.

“I can have my opinion on anything,” 32-year-old tight end Tony Gonzalez says, “and they’re still going to do what they want to do. If he’s out there throwing 300 yards a game and the efficiency is up there in the hundreds or something like that, then yeah, keep him in there. I would.

“But as of now, I think they’d probably go back to Brodie.”

Of course. Huard says he has no illusions of being any team’s savior. Not anymore.

“I’m not thinking about that,” he says. “I mean, whatever. I’m going to worry about the game (today). Everyone wants to talk about the future here, and honestly, it kind of gets old. So let’s just worry about the Raiders.”

• • •

Huard walks through the dark hallways under Gillette Stadium, dressed in a business shirt and pressed trousers. He looks the part, and for now, that part is his.

He stops near the players’ tunnel. You can see the field from here, and it’s still bright and open and pristine, even after 60 minutes of turmoil and two injured quarterbacks, Croyle and New England’s Tom Brady. It’s injuries like those that have given Huard a career that has lasted a dozen years, and it’s moments like this that make him stop and think about it.

He has made good money and had a long career. But the end is coming. Huard’s contract with the Chiefs expires after the 2009 season. There’s not much work for a quarterback pushing 40. This might be the last time Huard gets this call.

“I’m not one to look back,” he says. “I just look forward.”

Huard stands in the hallway and chats with Croyle. The 25-year-old is wearing thick bandages, ice and a sling, all of it holding his shoulder in the socket.

Huard smiles and nods, says a few encouraging words. He’s keeping it warm for you, kid. This is what he does.

Then Huard turns away and heads toward the exit, ready to begin a few more weeks as a starting quarterback, the old cowboy dressed up nice for one last ride.

Huard at the controls
Damon Huard has won exactly half his games when starting for Kansas City:


Date Opp Passing TD IN Rating Result
9-17-06 Den 17-23-133 0 0 87.6 L 9-6 OT
10-1-06 SF 18-23-208 2 0 133.3 W 41-0
10-8-06 Ari 26-38-288 2 0 108.2 W 23-20
10-15-06 Pit 16-32-162 0 1 51.8 L 45-7
10-22-06 SD 15-27-232 2 0 108.9 W 30-27
10-29-06 Sea 17-25-312 1 0 124.1 W 35-28
11-5-06 StL 10-15-148 3 0 138.3 W 31-17
11-12-06 Mia 15-38-201 0 0 57.0 L 13-10
9-9-07 Hou 22-33-168 0 2 53.6 L 20-3
9-16-07 Chi 19-28-175 1 1 81.7 L 20-10
9-23-07 Min 20-29-206 1 0 100.6 W 13-10
9-30-07 SD 17-29-284 2 2 86.0 W 30-16
10-7-07 Jax 18-30-196 0 1 68.2 L 17-7
10-14-07 Cin 25-35-264 2 0 112.1 W 27-20
10-21-07 Oak 16-31-177 0 1 55.4 W 12-10
11-4-07 GB 19-32-213 2 2 74.1 L 33-22
11-11-07 Den 6-15-83 0 2 18.9 L 27-11
12-2-07 SD 19-34-186 1 2 56.7 L 24-10

Tribal Warfare
09-14-2008, 02:06 AM
God damnit Babb, you recycled your and changed the headline

T-post Tom
09-14-2008, 02:19 AM
Our goose is cooked if Huard goes down today.

blueballs
09-14-2008, 02:22 AM
reposting your own article with in 15 minutes
your cowboy biscuts are short some leavening

ClevelandBronco
09-14-2008, 03:13 AM
...“That has kind of been my role,” he says. “For most of my career, coming off the bench, going in there and filling in when need be.”

Huard won’t get much thanks. A helmet pat here or a fist bump there.

Here's one helmet pat and one fist bump for a a guy who gets to play the QB position in the NFL.

Yeah. I follow another team.

I hope that Mr. Huard kicks ass this week. I think that he's been treated badly by KC fans. I've even seen silly people talk about Thigpen.

He's not ready to embarrass himself yet.

CoMoChief
09-14-2008, 10:51 AM
Here's one helmet pat and one fist bump for a a guy who gets to play the QB position in the NFL.

Yeah. I follow another team.

I hope that Mr. Huard kicks ass this week. I think that he's been treated badly by KC fans. I've even seen silly people talk about Thigpen.

He's not ready to embarrass himself yet.

Huard puts this team in a better position to win

Croyle's fragile and he sucks.

Bring on the Raiders.