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Old 08-19-2011, 11:41 PM  
Tribal Warfare Tribal Warfare is offline
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Mellinger: Credibility of the Chiefs takes a hit

Credibility of the Chiefs takes a hit
SAM MELLINGER COMMENTARY

BALTIMORE | Even as the Chiefs guard details like wartime secrets, we know that a scuffle happened between their top draft pick and a respected veteran.

We know that the rookie is missing snaps and falling back before his rookie year even begins.

That’s not the worst part.

The Chiefs can try to ignore this incident and tell their players not to talk about it, but the story of the preseason has consequences both on and off the field. This is a horrible look for Jonathan Baldwin, the first-year receiver who already carried a reputation as a diva, and the second time Thomas Jones is known to have fought a younger teammate.

Those are both minor sidebars to the big takeaway: General manager Scott Pioli and the Chiefs’ decision makers look foolish today.

The Chiefs lost their second preseason game 31-13 to the Ravens on Friday. There are football issues to discuss, but for now the only topic that matters is a midweek scuffle between Baldwin and Jones that occurred during training camp and has Baldwin injured and unsure when he’ll return.

“If it’s not a football question, at this point, there’s nothing for me to answer,” Jones said after the game, in which he played and gained 15 yards on five carries. “If it’s not a football question, I’m really not interested in answering.”

Stopped in the locker room, head coach Todd Haley confirmed that Baldwin was back in Kansas City “getting treatment” but otherwise declined to comment.

Some context is essential here. Training camp fights happen all the time. Testosterone-charged men are isolated with each other and millions of dollars at stake, so stuff happens. Most of it we never hear about. The day before Jones and Baldwin reportedly got into it away from fans and media, there was a minor scuffle on the practice field.

So a fight between teammates is neither unusual nor unexpected.

But it is significant, most notably because the first-round draft pick is now injured. That makes it a big deal for the Chiefs’ offense. Baldwin is a key part of insulating quarterback Matt Cassel with enough playmakers to be one of the league’s more dynamic offenses.

Already without a summer’s worth of workouts and reps because of the lockout, Baldwin is now even further behind. What this does for his status in the locker room is even worse. First impressions matter.

The biggest egg, though, is on Pioli’s face. He spent most of the last two years preaching character and team-building and especially The Right 53 — a reference to fielding the right men, upstanding men, on the club’s 53-man roster. The first two years of the Pioli regime, the Chiefs drafted team captains and National Merit finalists. They were very clear that this was part of The Plan.

But all of that felt more like convenient rhetoric this spring when Pioli selected Baldwin, whose time in college included charges of indecent assault, harassment and disorderly conduct that were later dropped. That’s not to mention his public accusations that his coaches at the University of Pittsburgh were deliberately sabotaging his draft stock.

After the draft, the Chiefs went out of their way to squash any talk about Baldwin’s issues.

“We are very comfortable making him a Kansas City Chief,” Haley said.

“We talked to a lot of people on this, and we feel very confident,” Pioli said.

“I won’t be a problem,” Baldwin said.

Three weeks into training camp, there is already evidence against that. To whatever extent it disrupts the Chiefs’ progress, Pioli is the one in charge and in line for the blame.

It isn’t just Baldwin. The Chiefs used a third-round pick on linebacker Justin Houston, who reportedly failed a drug test before the draft.

They went away from the Boy Scouts and citizenship award winners they so valued while building the Chiefs into AFC West champions last year, and they didn’t make it to the first real game before the first real problem.

There is a credibility issue here. Privately and publicly, they have talked up Baldwin’s character, promoting the fact that he moved in with Cassel for part of the summer and downplaying his past problems as overblown.

Whatever the genesis of the issue between Baldwin and Jones, who once scuffled with fellow running back Cedric Benson when the two played in Chicago, it puts Pioli and the other decision makers in an awful spot.

If there is a significant feeling in the locker room that Baldwin was the instigator, then not only are the Chiefs seeing their top rookie’s development set back, there are questions about the franchise’s overall direction.

When a group ties itself so closely to a philosophy, credits it for success and then shifts away from it, opinions will be formed.

Again, scuffles between football players during training camp are not uncommon. This isn’t the end of their progress or a condemnation of what the organization stands for.

If the Chiefs have been as successful at team-building as they say during the new regime’s first two seasons, they should be able to move past this and classify it as a normal locker room occurrence that just happened to leak out to the public.

The hope within the organization is that Baldwin can use this incident as a positive experience. He wouldn’t be the first Chiefs receiver to shed some knucklehead.

The point is that there are people — inside the locker room and out — who believe Pioli never should have taken the risk.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:44 PM   #2
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The only reason this is even an issue is because Baldwin got injured. If everyone walked away clean, there wouldn't be a story. People need to chill a bit on the Baldwin/diva thing. Fights happen, and Thomas Jones, although respected, is certainly not a saint.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:46 PM   #3
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:46 PM   #4
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Give me a break .There's no credibility lost. Dwayne Bowe's comments last season had more opportunity to divide the locker room than some scuffle that was made public.

This is why you build a team out of character. For situations like these. I'd be shocked if everyone wasn't business as usual today.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:48 PM   #5
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefzilla1501 View Post
Give me a break .There's no credibility lost. Dwayne Bowe's comments last season had more opportunity to divide the locker room than some scuffle that was made public.

This is why you build a team out of character. For situations like these. I'd be shocked if everyone wasn't business as usual today.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCrockaholic View Post
The only reason this is even an issue is because Baldwin got injured. If everyone walked away clean, there wouldn't be a story. People need to chill a bit on the Baldwin/diva thing. Fights happen, and Thomas Jones, although respected, is certainly not a saint.
I agree with most of what you're saying here but I would like to add...

The biggest reason this is an issue is because the Chiefs are trying their very best to make it a non-story.

Here's how it should go:

Haley: Yes, we had a scuffle between a veteran and our rookie first round pick. We're disappointed. It's unfortunate. It's a development setback for Baldwin because he's going to be out 4 weeks. We're going to make sure he runs routes and gets conditioning so he'll be ready when his wrist is healthy. Next question?

What would the talking heads on the radio have to talk about all day if that's how the Chiefs deal with it? I'm so tired of the lies and stupidity that comes from these guys. Press conferences are worthless. They don't say anything. Ever.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:51 PM   #8
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefzilla1501 View Post
Give me a break .There's no credibility lost. Dwayne Bowe's comments last season had more opportunity to divide the locker room than some scuffle that was made public.

This is why you build a team out of character. For situations like these. I'd be shocked if everyone wasn't business as usual today.
Everyone except the injured head case anyway.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:51 PM   #10
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:51 PM   #11
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On the one hand Mellinger goes out of his way to make fights on the practice field seem innocuous. On the other...Pioli ALREADY has egg on his face for a scuffle in practice? This isn't over a suspension. This isn't over an arrest. He had a fight.

He goes on to suggest he doesn't know the full back story.
How can he be so sure Baldwin wasn't DEFENDING himself?

This will be a non-issue in 3 more weeks so long as this isn't a prolonged injury.

Football teams are never comprised entirely of players who haven't had some issues along the way. Something tells me we oughta be watching something other than professional sports if we're Hell-bent on getting our morality fix.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:52 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Phobia View Post
I agree with most of what you're saying here but I would like to add...

The biggest reason this is an issue is because the Chiefs are trying their very best to make it a non-story.

Here's how it should go:

Haley: Yes, we had a scuffle between a veteran and our rookie first round pick. We're disappointed. It's unfortunate. It's a development setback for Baldwin because he's going to be out 4 weeks. We're going to make sure he runs routes and gets conditioning so he'll be ready when his wrist is healthy. Next question?

What would the talking heads on the radio have to talk about all day if that's how the Chiefs deal with it? I'm so tired of the lies and stupidity that comes from these guys. Press conferences are worthless. They don't say anything. Ever.
Yeah it's certainly not fun from a fan perspective. But they can only get away with that stuff if the Chiefs are winning. If they become losers, and Todd still tries to pull that stuff, it won't be pretty.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:57 PM   #13
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The only problem with the situation in my eyes is the way they handled it on the radio broadcast. For nearly four hours Mitch Holthus said Haley was going to make a statement about it after the conclusion of the game. He said this during the pregame show. He said it during the game. He said it during the postgame show. And then when the press conference started, Haley said nothing about it. When Teicher finally asked him the question, Haley played dumb. I thought that looked (okay, sounded...) really bush league.

I have no problem with their PR approach in a general sense. They don't comment on much. They're locked up like Fort Knox. And that's fine. That is to say, that would be fine, if they didn't spend four hours telling everybody they were going to comment on this. Which made it sound like it was something important that Haley had to address. And then when he replied the way he did during the press conference, it just came off really badly.

If you want to stick with "no comment", then freaking stick with no comment. Don't treat the media like they're idiots (even if they are), don't treat the fans like we're idiots (even if we are). Don't say you're going to do one thing and then turn around and do another, act like you don't have a clue what people are talking about, and then act like you're offended that they're even asking, when they've been told for half the night you're going to comment on it. Now it sounds like something important that you're trying to sweep under the rug. And in doing that I think you're turning what I personally believe is a non-story, or a minor story, into a big story. Your're providing ammunition for pieces just like Mellinger's.

Maybe it was the left hand not talking to the right hand. Maybe Haley changed his mind. Whatever it was, it wasn't a good way to handle it.

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Old 08-19-2011, 11:59 PM   #14
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Well Mellinger, I for one don't really blame Pioli for sometimes breaking his "only draft/sign team captains and boy scouts" approach. Every once in a while you gotta take a risk on talent. Which I believe Baldwin has a ton of.
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Old 08-19-2011, 11:59 PM   #15
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Yeah Haley's whole "I know nothing" act was pretty pathetic. And he awkwardly repeated twice, "Baldwin did not play tonight due to injury". His acting and B.S. was terrible.
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