With Linebacker, Justin Houston, choosing to pass on OTA sessions in Kansas City, most of the veterans are in camp trying to fins some semblance of a rhythm in preparation for the beginning of training camp the end of July.
One player, Linebacker, Tamba Hali, has been down this road a few times. The fact he’s even a Chief at this point is a testament to his loyalty and character.
In the off-season, Hali took a pay cut to stay in Kansas City. It was a bold move for an aging veteran who could have easily commanded more money in the open market. Instead, he decided to play football in the only NFL city he’s known in his stellar career.
Hali is one of those rare players that has a firm grip on the pace of his body to prepare for the regular season. With the sport nearly a year round business for the players, the veteran linebacker knows the tricks of the trade to elongate his stellar career.
Though Hali’s sack numbers have decreased, the fact he along with 2014 first round pick, Dee Ford, and the aforementioned Houston, the trio still has the ability to help this franchise set a new sack record in 2015.
For Hali, numbers matter, but the fact he’s such a steady player, even at the age of 32, indicates the man loves the game of football. To his credit, he’s played hurt, and leaves it all on the field. Add that with the fact he’s been a mentor to Houston and Ford teaching them how to be professionals on the field, regardless how long the man plays football, Hali’s legacy in Kansas City is set.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not putting him out to pasture at this stage of his career. The man sill could snare 10 sacks this season. In fact, I’d be shocked if he didn’t have a monster season knowing this could be his last in the NFL.
Hali came to the Chiefs as an under-sized defensive end from Penn State. Today he’s one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. Granted his pass covering skills aren’t as good as Houston’s that matters very little to the Chiefs. The man can still sack the quarterback and he’s a vital part of KC’s run stuffing defense.
It’s the first of those two items that made Hali a consistent Pro Bowl performer. Again, when you have Houston opposite you on the defensive line, it certainly is a bonus. However, last year, because Hali is still playing at the top of his game, Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, overloaded the pair on the same side in attacking opposing quarterbacks.
What transpired could be seen on the field. Houston nearly crushed the NFL sack record. That happened in large part to the fact Hali played unselfishly. There’s no doubt some of the sacks Houston netted a year ago, had much to do with Hali forcing the quarterback to fear both KC’s sack masters.
In 2015, the Chiefs defense is certainly going to have to play better if they want to end their playoff futility. Hali has been around long enough to see this team waste their post-season changes since 2010.
In year three under Head Coach, Andy Reid, I’m sure the decision to stay in Kansas City had something to do with the man Hali respects above any other on the coaching staff.
It would have been easy for Reid to push Hali out the door, but when you have an aging player just a notch below his prime, you better keep him around. Then again to be honest, part of the decision to re-work Hali’s contract had something to do with the Houston situation.
However, at what price, do you calculate the importance of veteran leadership and productivity on the field? The fact Hali continues to do both at a high level makes the Chiefs a better all around football team.
Hali has proven over time he belongs in the elite category at the linebacker position for this franchise. Since it’s inception the Chiefs are one of the few teams that can boast a trio of game changers at the position like Derrick Thomas, Hali and Houston.
Still, even though father time might be knocking on his door, there isn’t a Chiefs fan that doesn’t appreciate his contributions and efforts at this stage of his career in Kansas City. I know Houston, and someday Dee Ford, will appreciate the example Hali set in carrying on the tradition of outstanding linebacker play for this franchise.
The fact he plays a glory position, and accepts all challenges in this path, tells me Hali is a lock to become a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame. Lets just hope between now and then Hali’s hard work pays off with a playoff win and a Super Bowl run.
Photos Courtesy John Rieger & Denny Medley USA Today Sports