INSIDE SLANT: Chiefs Players Scatter For the Bye

Dick Vermeil's players have run off to the four corners of the country, if not the world, for a week of bye-week rest prior to returning Monday for a normal work week of preparations for their November 9 home game with Cleveland.

Vermeil and his undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, however, will self scout their 8-0 team, identify areas that need improvement and prepare a game plan for Cleveland before they get some time off beginning Thursday afternoon. Vermeil is scheduled to fly back to Philadelphia for some family time.

He had had planned on a Wednesday workout before releasing his players, but changed his mind after Sunday night's convincing 38-5 victory over Buffalo. His players lobbied for a full week off, though, and Vermeil eventually agreed that they'd earned the right to take a full week off; beginning after a team picture was taken Monday afternoon.

This move came, mind you, less than a week after Vermeil gave his players a Wednesday off in the short work week following the to-the-wire Monday night victory in Oakland. Three key starters -- quarterback Trent Green, cornerback Dexter McCleon and strong safety Greg Wesley -- didn't practice Thursday with sore limbs.

The Chiefs then went out and put together one of their best games of the season in pounding Buffalo.

And when his players told him that the fresh-legs approach was a factor, Vermeil -- who still conducts three-hour practices on Wednesday and Thursday of most weeks -- was inclined to believe them.

"I've always appreciated what players go through to play," Vermeil said. "There have been different times in my career when I've listened to them. But I don't know if I've ever listened as much as I do with this group. I trust them so much."

Now, that's not an approach Vermeil would have taken with his UCLA teams in the 70's or his Philadelphia Eagles later in that decade. He didn't do it with his St. Louis Rams, either, as they worked for at least a couple days during the bye week.

But if you're looking for a reason why his players have so embraced Vermeil's blueprint for the 2003 Chiefs, you can start with the respect Vermeil has generated through his ongoing concern for their welfare, both as players and as men. Different groups of players and their mates routinely visit their coach's home for home-cooked meals prepared by either Vermeil or his wife Carol.

Pushing the idea of football as family has always been a part of the Vermeil philosophy. That approach has been elevated in the late stages of his life to the point that it is his guiding principle today. And if you can't trust someone in your family to do the right thing, who can you trust?

That's why Vermeil trusts that his Chiefs won't do the kind of "spring break" messing around that might cause them to lose the momentum generated by the first 8-0 start ever recorded by the Chiefs or any Vermeil-coached team.

"I'm not concerned about it," Vermeil said of the effect a week's mid-season vacation might have on his players. "I trust them. We're the only team in the league that doesn't meet on the road the night before a ballgame. We're 4-0 on the road. We're one of the very few teams that don't meet the night before a game when we play at home.

"If you can't trust your team then you probably don't know your team. I think I know these guys; I respect them and I think I know what's on their minds and I know what their motivation is.

"I expect them to come back Monday fresh, full of enthusiasm. The tiredness you see in them on Friday at the end of a week will be gone and they'll be fresher than we saw them on Sunday night."

His players are talking about starting the second half of the season with a clean slate, an 0-0 record. That's something you hear from 0-8 teams as opposed to 8-0 ones, but it's the approach Kansas City wants to take beginning with Cleveland.


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