View Full Version : Chiefs Babb: Chiefs’ linebackers make a good impression in loss to Vikings

Tribal Warfare
08-22-2009, 02:04 AM
Chiefs’ linebackers make a good impression in loss to Vikings (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/1398220.html)
The Kansas City Star

MINNEAPOLIS | Brett Favre didn’t spend much time in Minnesota’s backfield, but when he did, the Chiefs let him know they weren’t intimidated.

Kansas City brought an aggressive defensive approach to its second preseason game, a 17-13 loss Friday night against the Vikings. Favre, the occasionally retired quarterback, played the first two series and spent part of his time on the Metrodome’s artificial turf. The Chiefs didn’t sack Favre, or either of the Vikings’ two other passers, but linebackers Corey Mays and Tamba Hali took turns knocking down Favre in his limited appearance Friday.

It was the most encouraging flash from a group of linebackers put together and emphasized after last year’s unit couldn’t do much more than spend time on the injured list.

“It’s not enough, obviously,” Mays said. “We didn’t get the win. There are really no accolades we can take away.”

No accolades, but perhaps some encouragement. Mays, a fourth-year linebacker, entered training camp just trying to make the team as a special-teams player. He’d spent time with New England and Cincinnati, both of which gave up on Mays, so there wasn’t much reason to think he’d be a force for the Chiefs when they signed him in March.

But his role has increased since veteran linebacker Zach Thomas suffered an unidentified injury and started spending practice time on the stationary bike instead of the field.

If Mays continues to improve, the Chiefs are facing an ideal situation at inside linebacker. Kansas City signed Thomas, 35, in part so he could influence the team’s young defenders and groom a young replacement. With Mays, the Chiefs might have stumbled into discovering that linebacker out of necessity, but far earlier than they thought they’d need to.

Mays, as long as he’s reliable, allows the Chiefs to wait on Thomas to get healthy without having to force him back into the starting lineup — particularly if he’s no longer the best available option.

Kansas City hoped to get at least one season, or close enough to it, from Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler, but his absence from all but four days of training camp now raises questions about how realistic that hope ever was.

When the first-team Chiefs defense blitzed Friday, it was Mays who always seemed to be zipping into Minnesota’s backfield. The Vikings were riding a wave of enthusiasm on Friday, and Favre was dropping back amid a sea of flashbulbs.

“Coach (Todd) Haley, he told us from day one,” rookie defensive end Tyson Jackson said, “it’s going to be a real intense environment.”

On second and 6, Hali chased Favre, forcing him to hurry his throw, which was incomplete. Two plays later, the Vikings and star running back Adrian Peterson couldn’t convert fourth and 1 because free safety Jarrad Page flew into the backfield, and Mays tackled Peterson for a 1-yard loss.

On the Vikings’ next possession, Favre’s last, there was Mays again, chasing him and forcing an incomplete pass on third down.

“We weren’t totally sure who was playing,” Haley said, “and some of those guys you have to play a little differently. We want to be able to pressure the quarterback, whoever it is.”

The Chiefs looked dominant until Favre gave way to Tarvaris Jackson, who orchestrated a 93-yard touchdown drive and, later, completed a 64-yard scoring pass to Darius Reynaud. The change appeared to disorient Kansas City, and Haley said that cannot happen.

As the Chiefs return to Kansas City today after nearly a month at training camp in Wisconsin, the team appears to be confident enough in its linebackers to be aggressive — even against one of the NFL’s best offenses and a legendary, if rusty, quarterback.

“We’ve just got to keep working at it,” Haley said.