Veterans Will Bridge Rookie Gap

ST. JOSEPH, MO - With the absence of some of the Chiefs most notable and tenured players, you get the impression the young guys, that comprise most of the future roster, that some are starting to spin their wheels.

But with the addition of several key veterans on Thursday afternoon such as newcomers, Le'Ron McClain, Kelly Gregg, Steve Breaston, Brandon Carr and Tamba Hali, the learning curve for rookies should begin to straighten.

After nearly six months of lockout talk, the excitement of training camp took on a going home sort of vibe the past week. Just writing about actual football again was a welcome change for all of the media members in the barrels of the Chiefs media center. But now just a week into the grind of camp, the monotony of two a days is starting to return.

Truthfully, this past week of mostly conditioning and re-programming has been little more of a high-bred form of OTA's. Most of the veterans had been MIA because, until Thursday, the NFL hadn't officially began the 2011 league year. So those players in limbo to this point were no-shows. That meant the rookies received a good amount of attention from the coaching staff.

And until today, that had been the story of training camp. But that's all about to change.

With the bulk of the Chiefs talent making their training camp debut Thursday afternoon, it will not only give us our first look at how this team is shaping up but also give some of the young player will get a chance to pick the brains of some older guys.

One of those will be Linebacker Tamba Hali. Late Wednesday evening, the AFC's leading sack master, agreed to a new five-year contract with the Chiefs. So some young wide-eyed rookies are going to be able to pick his brain about the wars ahead in the NFL.

One of those players, rookie Linebacker, Gabe Miller, should be very excited about Hali showing up to camp on Thursday.

Like Miller was at Oregon State, Hali was a defensive end at Penn Sate for most of his collegiate career. But after four years at that position for the Chiefs, Hali switched to outside linebacker when Head Coach Todd Haley shifted his defense to a 3-4. And because of the adjustments Hali made the last two seasons, he was rewarded with the highest guaranteed dollars paid out to any free agent, when he received $35 million in guarantees from the Chiefs.

So you think Miller will be taking notes and picking Hali's brain about the position transition he's about to make for the Chiefs.

"Tamba's obviously had a lot of success in this league and last year he definitely put forth quite the performance", said Miller after Thursday's morning practice. "That's definitely a guy that would be good for a rookie like me to get behind and kind of mimic what he does."

But as we mentioned, Haley won't be the only veteran ready and willing to show the young players how it's done in training camp. And that's something that has Haley excited prior to his first full squad workout on Thursday afternoon.

"All those guys have kind of been in club med", said Haley earnestly about his veteran class that has been sitting on the sideline chomping at the bit to put on their Chiefs uniform. "They get free meals and get hot tubs and massages. They are anxious. They walk by and see everyone working and sweating and they don't like that feeling."

Although Haley points to his returning class of second and third year players as emerging leadership material, he knows the importance that the experience of a highly respected veteran player can bring to the mix.

"I think its huge", said Haley. "The nice thing that we have is our core young group from last year. It's unique in that way from a leadership standpoint. It's going to be an important part of our success this year."

"All I've asked (the veterans) is to put yourself in (the rookies) shoes. You all have been through it, how it worked for you. Even in a perfect scenario it was still a spin cycle for an extended amount of time. We've got a group of guys that understand those sorts of things and can empathize that. The entire group has to pull them along."

It's hard to say how long it will take before we start seeing the effects of the wealth of knowledge that's about to be tapped into over the balance of training camp.

But it's certain to refresh the stagnant nature of camp to date.

What impact will the veterans have on the rookies like Gabe Miller?

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