Holmes is Ready; Vermeil Tired of Questions

Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil saw Priest Holmes practice on Monday and has no doubts about his star running back's health. Vermeil fired a few lobs at the media from his press conference perch, as he has grown weary of the second-guessing that has taken place the last several months.

There are many question marks for every NFL team entering a new season.

But for Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil, there is one thing he is certain of as he prepares his team to host the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium: Priest Holmes will be the starting running back when Kansas City's offense trots on the field.

The status of the league's leading rusher over the last two seasons has been in doubt twice during the offseason.

Holmes' injured hip, suffered in a loss in Denver last December, fueled speculation throughout the winter, especially after he had it operated on to remove scar tissue in January.

Then in preseason, Holmes strongly hinted that if his current contract wasn't restructured or extended, he might sit out the season opener.

Vermeil hasn't talked to Holmes about the ongoing contract negotiations. All lingering doubts Vermeil may have had were erased when he saw Holmes participate in Monday's practice.

"Priest Holmes will play," Vermeil said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "I just know he wouldn't work like he did on the practice field if he wasn't getting ready to play. Priest Holmes does most of his talking with his actions. He sends a message and every one listens just by watching him.

"(His contract) is not a dead issue. I haven't talked to him about it. It's not my responsibility. Sometimes as a coach, you can get caught in between. It's a fine line. I, like (president) Carl (Peterson) and (owner) Lamar (Hunt) feel he deserves some recognition and some compensation, it's just a matter of it working for both sides."

The Holmes' soap opera hasn't been a distraction to the team, according to Vermeil. Questions about his health, though, have grown tiring.

Holmes showed glimpses of his former self in the preseason, rushing for 68 yards on 18 carries with a longest run of 11 yards. Holmes did not play in the Chiefs' 22-6 win over St. Louis last Thursday and had only one carry in the Chiefs' loss in Seattle on Aug. 23.

"No one wants to believe he is healthy to play," Vermeil said. "Because then, your story is over. If he's healthy, there is nothing else to write.

"To me, I almost take it as a personal affront. When have I ever said (something) to the Kansas City media that hasn't been the truth? And yet, you get second-guessed when you say he is going to play. The speculation wears you out. The contract has never reached the speculation that the hip injury had reached."

Vermeil is far more concerned about the health of two of his other playmakers, tight end Tony Gonzalez and kick and punt returner Dante Hall.

Both are crucial weapons needed against AFC West rival San Diego, led by former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Gonzalez is nursing a twisted knee suffered in practice last week and Hall is limited by a injured finger.

"Tony should work tomorrow," Vermeil said. "Dante will work, but I don't know if we will let him catch the ball yet."

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