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Tribal Warfare
10-24-2009, 10:17 PM
Haley’s desire to find right players keeps Chiefs on their toes (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/1527870.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

Derrick Johnson is pacing in a hallway, trying to find the words. He says he has no idea where he stands with the Chiefs. He didn’t watch television on Tuesday because that was the NFL’s trade deadline. He couldn’t relax on his day off at the same time he was worrying about his future.

Johnson wasn’t traded. It is less than 24 hours after the deadline passed, and emotions are taking hold. Anger and confusion pinch hardest.

“You don’t really know,” he says, barely above a whisper. “I know I’m right for this defense. I’m right for this team. I’m versatile. I can fit in any kind of defense, really. I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”

Johnson doesn’t know because the Chiefs don’t want him to know. He was demoted weeks ago. A few injuries. A few weak practices. Down to third-string at linebacker he went, no explanation provided. The team wants players to do precisely what Johnson is doing: walking around without answers, but determined to uncover them and improve enough that the Chiefs have no choice but to play him.

Johnson says he’d like to think he fits the profile of what the Chiefs are looking for. This season is important, but as important as anything is building a roster that coach Todd Haley says consists of the “right 53” players. Haley says that’s more important to him than having the most talented group. Fitness, belief and work ethic are the equalizers; skill is the separator.

Still, specifics are not provided to players, only the notion that if a man will not or cannot do his job the way Haley and his staff require, then the Chiefs will find those who will and can. The roster already has been through a cleansing process. It’s not finished.

“One day, the right 53 might include you,” tight end Sean Ryan says. “The next day, it might not.”

“No matter how good you are,” wide receiver Dwayne Bowe says, “if you’re doing it right, you might have a chance.”

“You’d better not take your position on this team for granted,” outside linebacker Mike Vrabel says. “We’re all here right now. That could change daily and weekly. These guys, they’re not going to stop.”

As the Chiefs advance into a season that seems equal parts an effort in improvement and a telling social experiment, the pile of casualties is growing. Third-year defensive lineman Tank Tyler was traded to Carolina on Monday. He had potential, but the Chiefs believe upgrades are available.

“There are guys out there,” Haley says, “that are better, we think, than what we have.”

Players who don’t fit Haley’s version of perfection are ridiculed, threatened, issued final chances and then given up on — not always in such an orderly fashion. What remains is an agonizing existence for some players, who watch as their teammates pack their things and depart Chiefs headquarters.

On this day, Johnson leans against a wall in a quiet corridor.

“Coach definitely wants us to be strong-minded,” he says. “Sometimes, to get something done or to be successful, you’ve got to be uncomfortable.”

He exhales.

“It’s uncomfortable,” he says.

• • •

There are things that test Haley’s patience and drive him all the way into a full-fledged rage, but he’d prefer to discuss the things he likes in a player.

The first is that he is willing to put the team above personal glory and achievement. Bowe had to learn that one during training camp. The flexing, dancing, cocky wideout was told to tone down the act — unless he preferred to take that act to the road. Starters must be willing to teach backups and tutor reserves — even if that means increasing the possibility of the teacher someday losing his job to a student.

“Some guys aren’t wired that way,” Haley says, and he’s willing to part ways with those players.

Another is for players to follow instructions, even if they don’t immediately make sense or cater to their skills. Ryan signed with the Chiefs as a veteran blocking tight end. He met with Haley, who had other plans, and now Ryan is known more as a receiving option.

“Whatever kind of tight end it’s going to be,” Ryan remembers thinking, “I’m going to prove to them I can do it all.”

But the tallest challenge for Haley has been establishing a philosophy that injuries, which he says are occasionally unavoidable, are sometimes viewed as a sign of weakness. Free safety Jarrad Page faced doubts after he suggested during the preseason that an injury should keep him out of the Chiefs’ third exhibition game. Johnson has endured several nagging injuries that kept him on the sideline during practices and threatened his job security.

Haley has made it clear that the way players react to injuries might determine their futures in Kansas City. If players nurse their wounds too long or report minor issues as long-lasting problems, Haley takes mental notes.

“Always show that you’re a guy that wants to be here,” Haley says, “who won’t look for ways out of practice but will look for ways in.”

Haley says it’s about toughness. That if players rise above aches and confront even significant injuries, it builds a kind of mental toughness that other teams envy. He says the best teams are made up of players who detest the idea of spending a day on the rehab field. The Chiefs’ training room has been stripped of luxuries, and Haley says it’s designed to make it feel less like a lounge and more like a prison cell. Haley said his vision for progress is a day when the rehab field is empty.

Johnson says now that players have learned to hide their injuries. For better or worse, they downplay minor health concerns because of how the opposite reaction might be interpreted. When Johnson hurt his groin this month, he remembers pedaling on a stationary bike and coming to a startling realization.

“Damn,” he says, “I’m the only one. Nobody’s limping out there.”

Whether it’s because of improved conditioning, good luck or fear of Haley’s wrath, the Chiefs’ injury report the last month has looked bare. When the final report was released before the Chiefs’ game against the New York Giants, the Giants listed 12 injured players compared with the Chiefs’ two. A week later, Dallas listed nine injured players to the Chiefs’ three. Last week, Washington listed seven players and the Chiefs listed three.

“You’ve got to practice to play, and that’s the way it is,” Haley says. “We’ve made it clear to them that it’s not going to be tolerated.”

This past Friday, players gathered for a morning practice. They stretched and ran sprints at the team’s indoor facility. A few dozen yards away, the team’s trainer, Cedric Smith, folded his arms. The stationary bikes were still. The heavy equipment stayed put.

Just as Haley had imagined it, the conditioning field was empty.

• • •

Talent doesn’t trump everything. Haley says the best teams aren’t those with the best players but rather with the best mix of players.

It’s because of that, he says, that some of the Chiefs’ more talented players have been banished. Haley says that Tyler and former quarterback Tyler Thigpen were traded because neither could help the team quickly enough or in the right way. Both were traded for fifth-round picks in next year’s NFL draft.

“He probably could’ve developed and been somebody,” Haley says of Thigpen. “But when you start weighing: Where’s he at right now? What can he be? What can we get; what can we turn that pick into?

“And the same with Tank. Tank is a guy that has a lot of potential that we all liked and thought could be a good player. But how high, where could he get — what’s the ceiling? What could we get? What can we turn that player into? It’s constant.”

Haley says the constant evaluating keeps coaches abreast of the Chiefs’ long-term prospects and the free-agent landscape. It also keeps players on edge, which Haley says keeps them sharp.

“They want guys who are willing to do whatever they can to help this team win,” Vrabel says. “Guys who aren’t willing to do that, then they shouldn’t ask questions when they’re released or traded.”

Vrabel says he’s used to this kind of approach. He spent eight seasons with the New England Patriots, who he says holds players to similar standards. It’s not new to Vrabel. It is new to others.

Johnson walks toward a meeting room and stops. He is a former first-round pick who hasn’t reached his potential. Now he is Demorrio Williams’ backup, and Williams has played so well that he hasn’t allowed Johnson a chance to reclaim his spot. Still, Johnson wonders why he was benched in the first place. Was it his effort? Work ethic? Training habits? He says he doesn’t know.

But Johnson says that he’ll just have to keep trying to improve in all areas to try to win back his starting job. He says he’s determined to make it right. That’s why — although Johnson hasn’t been told this — the Chiefs like him and see him in their future. That’s why they didn’t trade him last week. Regardless, they’d prefer that Johnson remained uncomfortable.

“Football teaches you you’ve got to have a strong mind, man,” Johnson says. “Just putting the pieces to the puzzle together. Just making a team.

“It’s going to make us better.”

• • •

Haley lifts himself from a rolling chair and straightens himself. His back has been giving him problems this week, and he’s not sure why. Still …

“Got to be tough,” he says with a smile.

Haley says part of his job is to be the bad guy, to make certain that players understand what is expected of them — and cut ties with them if they don’t meet those expectations. Neither assignment is easy, and Haley insists he had no delusions that his job would be simple.

Haley heads toward the door. As he steps into a hallway, he’s greeted by general manager Scott Pioli. The team just worked out another player. Haley says that when there’s a new face in the building, the Chiefs’ players stay at attention. They’re aware of what it might mean. Adding a player would mean that someone else is out. There’s no such thing as the right 54.

“Their ears are up,” Haley says. “They’re aware of it, and I think that them understanding that that’s the culture, and that’s the way it’s going to be — I tell them all the time: ‘It’s always going to be like that.’

“It’s a work in progress, obviously, and it’ll stay a work in progress forever.”

Cosmos
10-24-2009, 10:28 PM
Derrick Johnson pacing the hallways realizing how much money he has pissed away by not geting with the program, and as a result, not getting on the field.

RustShack
10-24-2009, 11:03 PM
I just came in my pants.

Douche Baggins
10-24-2009, 11:20 PM
Johnson says now that players have learned to hide their injuries.

Well, it does lead to greatness.

http://campussqueeze.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/romo.jpg

And now he can't smell.

So...is that a positive? I'm not sure.

ILikeBigTiddys
10-24-2009, 11:26 PM
Yawn
Posted via Mobile Device

Saccopoo
10-24-2009, 11:30 PM
I could sit here and wax poetically about the need for affirmative reformation in the rank and file of the Chiefs player personnel, how these players had become lax with the former regimes nonchalant attitude, how they needed to be broken down in order to be built back up again into a stronger, more cohesive unit that will be able to step onto a football field on Sundays and be competitive, but I won't do that. The article speaks for itself. Speaks for the demeanor of Haley, and how it seems that the players are starting to get it.

It's going to be a long process. I think that we all knew that. But it looks like the process is underway.

Douche Baggins
10-24-2009, 11:55 PM
Haley lifts himself from a rolling chair and straightens himself. His back has been giving him problems this week, and he’s not sure why. Still …

“Got to be tough,” he says with a smile.

Haha...you gotta love Todd Haley.

He is one salty bastard. I bet his daddy didn't let him whine growing up.

BossChief
10-25-2009, 12:02 AM
Well, it does lead to greatness.

http://campussqueeze.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/romo.jpg

And now he can't smell.

So...is that a positive? I'm not sure.

cmon man.

bad example.

Romonowski took lie 50 pills/day and is a psycho.

His problems arent because of hiding minor injuries, they are because of his abuse of enhancements.

I agree certain injuries should make a player sit, but my HS coach told us if you arent injured you play, and we werent making millions.

BossChief
10-25-2009, 12:03 AM
Haha...you gotta love Todd Haley.

He is one salty bastard. I bet his daddy didn't let him whine growing up.

Didnt his dad take him to scout players for the Steelers?

I bet he didnt.

Douche Baggins
10-25-2009, 12:08 AM
His problems arent because of hiding minor injuries, they are because of his abuse of enhancements.


Wrong. He hid a ton of injuries including multiple concussions.

He never abused anything. Read his book.

Some of the stuff he took enabled him to play through the pain, though.

DaWolf
10-25-2009, 12:10 AM
Johnson says now that players have learned to hide their injuries.

Spoken like a guy who still doesn't get it. These guys don't want you to "hide" your injuries, because if you are truly hurt you won't play (see Albert, B.). What they are looking for are guys who aren't going to use minor issues, like "my shoulder aches," as an excuse to get out of practicing. They want guys who are excited about practice and want to improve every day. So until DJ gets this simple bit of information, until he figures out that he needs to be excited about practice and willing to dedicate himself to improving every day, he will continue to ride bench behind Demorrio...

scott free
10-25-2009, 01:24 AM
Blabb can really put a story together when he wants to, anyone thats always on his ass, should write something better.

He doesnt dazzle with prose, but he certainly seems to have enough access & asks the right questions to gain the insights that i want to hear.

Stay or go, i feel kinda bad for DJ, he wants to...

Douche Baggins
10-25-2009, 01:25 AM
Blabb can really put a story together when he wants to, anyone thats always on his ass, should write something better.

He doesnt dazzle with prose, but he certainly seems to have enough access & ask the questions to gain the insights that i want to hear.

Stay or go, i feel kinda bad for DJ, he wants to...

I think potentially he could be a much better columnist than Jason "look at me" Whitlock.

His KC Star blog posts are full of opinion and great insight.

Rausch
10-25-2009, 01:28 AM
Haha...you gotta love Todd Haley.

No, I don't.

BossChief
10-25-2009, 01:33 AM
Wrong. He hid a ton of injuries including multiple concussions.

He never abused anything. Read his book.

Some of the stuff he took enabled him to play through the pain, though.
Heres a video that will show you are wrong, bud.

He took too many steroids the last few years in the NFL and it has caused him many problems.

Dont believe me though, listen to Bills own words and words of those around him.

I agree that players hiding certain injuries hurts them after football, they are getting millions to play a sport that demands alot from the body, sometimes permanently damaging it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=941961n&tag=related;photovideo

scott free
10-25-2009, 01:37 AM
I think potentially he could be a much better columnist than Jason "look at me" Whitlock.

I've now seen 2 articles of his with much more football insight & human interest than anything Whitburger has chimed in with lately, Babb is talking football...not vindictive, petty grievances.

Blabb > Egolock

BossChief
10-25-2009, 01:39 AM
I've now seen 2 articles of his with much more football insight & human interest than anything Whitburger has chimed in with lately, Babb is talking football...not vindictive, petty grievances.

Blabb > Egolock

Has whitlock even written an article about the play of the Chiefs this year?

scott free
10-25-2009, 01:44 AM
Has whitlock even written an article about the play of the Chiefs this year?

I might be missing one or two weak attempts to do so, but they consistently devolve into any possible distraction that involves 'him'.

milkman
10-25-2009, 05:46 AM
But Johnson says that he’ll just have to keep trying to improve in all areas to try to win back his starting job. He says he’s determined to make it right. That’s why — although Johnson hasn’t been told this — the Chiefs like him and see him in their future. That’s why they didn’t trade him last week. Regardless, they’d prefer that Johnson remained uncomfortable.

Does he really believe this?

First, Bowe knew exactly what they wanted him to do to earn back his starting position.

You'd think that if Haley and Pioli like him and see him in their future, with his impending free agency, they'd do everything in their power to make certain he knows what is expected from him in order to keep him on the field and ensure that he re-signs with KC.

I don't believe that DJ is clueless because they haven't told him what they expect.
I believe he's clueless because he's dumbass, and as such, he doesn't fit the profile of the type of player that the braintrust is looking for.

And Babb selling this BS is nearly as stupid.

milkman
10-25-2009, 05:50 AM
Blabb can really put a story together when he wants to, anyone thats always on his ass, should write something better.

He doesnt dazzle with prose, but he certainly seems to have enough access & asks the right questions to gain the insights that i want to hear.

Stay or go, i feel kinda bad for DJ, he wants to...

What's so great about this article?

Do you honestly believe that Pioli and Haley aren't letting these players know what is expected of them?

This article is trying to sell that BS as the reason that DJ isn't starting.

I don't buy it.

It's BS, every bit as much as Whitlock's articles are BS.

kstater
10-25-2009, 05:56 AM
Does he really believe this?

First, Bowe knew exactly what they wanted him to do to earn back his starting position.

You'd think that if Haley and Pioli like him and see him in their future, with his impending free agency, they'd do everything in their power to make certain he knows what is expected from him in order to keep him on the field and ensure that he re-signs with KC.

I don't believe that DJ is clueless because they haven't told him what they expect.
I believe he's clueless because he's dumbass, and as such, he doesn't fit the profile of the type of player that the braintrust is looking for.

And Babb selling this BS is nearly as stupid.

This pretty much sums up my thoughts. I'd put good money that they've told DJ exactly what's expected of him, and I'll go out on a limb and say he hasn't done it.

chiefzilla1501
10-25-2009, 08:02 AM
I'm willing to be patient with Haley, but there's a fine line you have to draw between cracking down on players and getting their respect. I'm not convinced yet that he understands where to draw that line.

tmax63
10-25-2009, 08:30 AM
There is no doubt in my mind that DJ knows exactly what is expected/required of him to get on the field and stay on the field. Until he realizes that anything less than full effort and attention to detail in doing exactly what he's told to do then he's in trouble. In all his career DJ's ability, including his time in the NFL, has allowed him to do well without doing it exactly as told or with less than perfect technique and it's always been good enough for the coach. That ain't the case anymore. That's why I don't see a TO or 85 or some of the other players around the NFL ever come here. Haley believes the head can win more games than the body and I actually agree. The talent is there if you make it to big dance, but the head isn't always.

TheGuardian
10-25-2009, 08:55 AM
So Haley wants a team full of tough, smart MF'ers.

sounds awful. Where did they find this guy? /sarcasm

tonyetony
10-25-2009, 09:12 AM
Hold on just a second. From what I read the only thing DJ needs to do get more playing time is out practice and out play Williams. If he can't do that then Williams gets the game day snaps, sorry DJ here's a hanky.

TheGuardian
10-25-2009, 09:18 AM
Hold on just a second. From what I read the only thing DJ needs to do get more playing time is out practice and out play Williams. If he can't do that then Williams gets the game day snaps, sorry DJ here's a hanky.

Yeah pretty much. Bowe showed what he needed to show to regain his starting job. That's all Johnson has to do. but from this report and others, he's a lazy practice guy too. This should make sense with the fact that several defensive guys now have all had trouble figuring out how to keep the guy motivated and playing more consistently.

KChiefs1
10-25-2009, 09:24 AM
Everyone compares Haley to Parcells because of the uncomfortable feeling that he gives the team.

Micjones
10-25-2009, 09:28 AM
If we're comparing their play this season... He's already outplayed Williams.
What big plays has Demo made?

booger
10-25-2009, 09:29 AM
DJ has a slow healing piss flap

Marcellus
10-25-2009, 09:47 AM
" Like a midget at a urinal I knew I was going to have to stay on my toes....."

HemiEd
10-25-2009, 09:52 AM
If we're comparing their play this season... He's already outplayed Williams.
What big plays has Demo made?
Maybe because Williams is playing as he is instructed to play, staying home when he is supposed to, etc.
My take is that DJ doesn't follow his instructions, when the ball gets snapped.

alanm
10-25-2009, 10:12 AM
If we're comparing their play this season... He's already outplayed Williams.
What big plays has Demo made?He blocked a punt last week.

Marcellus
10-25-2009, 10:20 AM
If we're comparing their play this season... He's already outplayed Williams.
What big plays has Demo made?

I have to disagree. I don't even know how you can say that considering DJ has barely been on the field.

Outside of the INT and the 1 sack he hasn't done a damn thing.

DJ has 8 tackles, Williams is second on the team with 37. 30 of them solo.

Not saying I know what DJ's stats would be if he were starting but you cant say he has outplayed Williams when there is no visible proof to back that up.

If you want to argue he would have played better than Williams go ahead but you are going to get a lot of argument against that as well. Again there is no reason to believe that either and there are several years of on the field history that go against DJ.

Sadly if anything they are comparable players.