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Old 10-05-2006, 07:42 AM  
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MERRILL: Herm’s sermons


Herm’s sermons

Chiefs’ coach makes sure everyone gets the message during his weekly meetings with the media.

The Kansas City Star

Herm Edwards never really minded the nickname. Five years in New York, five dozen press conferences, and the name that stuck was “The Preacher.” He guessed that meant the folks taking notes knew he was passionate. He never realized how much he entertained them.

“When you go to a press conference with other coaches,” New York Times NFL writer Judy Battista said, “you run the risk of falling asleep.

“Herm is not the norm.”

Tuesdays with Herm started at his usual red tableclothed perch, in front of roughly 15 microphones. In just a month of these weekly gab sessions, Edwards has already produced his share of sound bites and sermons. Like the time a few weeks ago, when he got on a roll after a reporter called him conservative. That response filled the airwaves for days.

But on Tuesday, Edwards was uncharacteristically subdued. Only once did his hand hit the table to make a point. After about 17 pain-free minutes, he was done, letting out a mild laugh at another red-state jab.

This may be the way Kansas Citians see Edwards after a win — calm, mild, but with an air of dissatisfaction. When asked what the defense has to do to please him, he said play the same way for another 13 weeks. That would apparently mean 13 more shutouts.

Ask if he feels better now that he has his first win in Kansas City, and he might tell you how early he was in the office Monday morning.

“I think it’s important that you understand as a coach that your team is watching you,” Edwards said. “I always say when you win you’ve got to stay humble, and when you lose, it ain’t the end of the world.

“To me, you’ve got to feel your players. You’ve got to know what gets them going and what doesn’t get them going, how you elevate them. The losses are hard. That game in Denver, that was a hard loss because you had a chance and it’s staring you right in the face and you couldn’t get it done. How you regroup from that, that’s part of being a head coach.”

And so is the Tuesday meet-and-greet. While old-school faces of Parcells and Belichick pucker up for a 30-minute root canal, Edwards tries to exude the same energy he carries on the field. He dresses in his casual practice garb — shorts, tennis shoes and the occasional sweatshirt — and explains the intricacies of the bootleg and the balkiness of a lineman’s back.

He won’t give away game plans, but he wants to inform. He also knows others are watching. Edwards had his team in mind when he provided one of the most memorable speeches in the history of the press conference, the “You play to win the game” sermon in New York.

The Jets were off to a 2-5 start in 2002. And Battista asked a question about whether Edwards was worried that his players might give up on the season. His arms flailed, his eyes watered, and Edwards looked as if he might storm out of the room.

“This is the greatest thing about sports — you play to win the game. Hello? You don’t play to just play it. When you start telling me it doesn’t matter, then retire, get out, because it matters. This whole conversation bothers me big time.”

Edwards’ wife, Lia, saw the clip on TV and was incredulous that he yelled at Battista. Edwards apparently told his wife, “Oh, Judy knows what I’m doing.”

A couple of months later, the Jets were in the playoffs. It’s assumed that Edwards used that platform to get his message out.

Back in Kansas City, the Chiefs are 1-2 heading into this weekend’s game in the desert, and Herm’s homily on Tuesday was filled with getting tougher on the road. He said the Chiefs have hovered around .400 away from Kansas City in the last five years. He said playoff teams do better.

Pete Moris, the Chiefs’ associate director of public relations, doesn’t see much of a change in the message. Edwards followed another colorful character in Dick Vermeil, who was known around the league as one of the more media-savvy coaches.

While Vermeil was known to get a little misty during a passionate rant, Edwards is more animated. His first day in Kansas City, the press conference sounded more pep talk than PR stunt. Preachy? Maybe. But if 53 guys listen to the sermon, Edwards doesn’t care if he breaks from the norm.

“I don’t know … it’s just the way I talk,” he said. “I’m a passionate guy about the game I’m involved in. I’ve always been that way. I just believe in life you’ve got to have that energy, you’ve got to enjoy what you do. And I do.

“I don’t like losing. Believe me, anybody who knows me since I was a little guy all the way through, they know I’m competitive. But you’ve got to enjoy it. And I come to work every day enjoying what I do.”
Training camp to stay in River Falls

Despite a strong push from St. Joseph, the Chiefs are heading back to Wisconsin for training camp in 2007.

President/general manager Carl Peterson said Tuesday that the club has exercised a one-year option to continue training at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for the 17th straight year. The team has three one-year options left on its agreement, but will listen to other interested parties for 2008.

“I think it’s been a very successful relationship,” Peterson said. “We’ve had 12 winning seasons out of 16 we’ve been there. The reason for moving up there then is the same reason today. The weather, and the opportunity to compete with someone else during training camp. We’ve taken advantage of that every year but one.”

Peterson recently met with officials from St. Joseph and Missouri Western State University. Part of the presentation included plans to build an indoor practice facility.

Wisconsin-River Falls made improvements to accommodate the Chiefs in 2005. Two new locker rooms were added along with a new training room.

“But I’m not excluding any opportunities for other people, and that’s why I listened to the St. Joe people,” Peterson said. “It was a very informative and a very constructive meeting. I’m keeping the window open, the door open as I do each year on what we’ll do next year.”
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