Healthy Bell Grasping The Chiefs Defense

A lot has been made of the injuries surrounding free agent linebacker Kendrell Bell. His health has been a constant discussion of dialogue whenever he's not on the field practicing. Two weeks ago he suffered a minor twinge in his groin and everyone assumed that the injury merry-go-round would continue but Bell for one is tired of talking about it and is ready to play some football.

Yesterday the Chiefs players partook in their own version of casual day at the office. It was hat day on the practice field, the helmets were off, and players were allowed to wear the cap of their choice instead of the usual headgear.

The fun spirited day was likely Coach Vermeil's way of rewarding his players for what he called "the best week of OTA's" that he's had since he's been here in Kansas City. The reward itself however had little to do with wearing hats and more to do with players not wearing helmets in near 90-degree heat. Without helmets the team was in shorts and shirts, which signaled a general acceptance that this would be a light day of practice. It seemed to loosen the squad up and everyone was in a good mood during the OTA session; all of them except linebacker Kendrell Bell who took every snap with a vigor that he has something to prove to himself, his teammates and the coaching staff.

Of all of the players on the practice field yesterday, Bell didn't seem to understand the concept of a light day. Number 99 was quietly running through his linebacker drills with the same intensity as he always does. The NFL's 2001 defensive rookie of the year undoubtedly wants to get back to the level of play that earned him the award.

He also appears to be carrying a chip on his shoulder over the injury prone asterisk next to his name. In fact, he refuses to discuss injuries with the media.

When approached on how his strained groin was doing he simply replied, "I don't talk about stuff like that. I am out here practicing and doing good. That's all I can ask for. As long as I am on the field I am 100% or else I wouldn't be out there."

Injury wasn't the only question mark with Bell either. Many Chiefs fans were surprised to hear that Bell would be the playing right outside linebacker rather than middle linebacker as most assumed he'd play when he was brought in as a free agent last March. Because Bell played right inside linebacker in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defenses, there was some concern on how he might adjust to the Chiefs new defense. Fortunately he seems to be adjusting to right outside linebacker in Gunther Cunningham's 4-3 fairly quickly.

"It all starts with the defensive coordinator and understanding his philosophy," said Bell. "So far I understand everything he is trying to achieve. I am picking up things well, it is a new thing for me but I think I will be ok."

Still Bell didn't mind the switch and understands that in the NFL it's all about adjustments and he's willing to play wherever Cunningham needs him. But for now his focus is to get familiar with the schemes so they become second nature.

"As a player and an athlete you have to be able to do things you aren't normally used to. You work at it, you get better at it and eventually you keep trying and achieve what you want to achieve."

Regardless of how well Bell plays at outside linebacker there will still be those who think he belongs in the middle of the Chiefs defense. Those individuals can still hold out hope based on Bell's comments on Thursday.

"I will play any linebacker position. Coach wants all of the linebackers to know every linebacker position both outsides and inside. Right now it is up in the air, we are just trying to see who fits where. That's what these practices are for."

What about Bell's current teammates at linebacker? How does he perceive his new teammates based on the high standards he likely has coming from Pittsburgh? How do Fox and Johnson stack up to Porter and Foote? It will be his job to mold some of the young players and he's confident in this group of inexperienced linebackers.

"There were a couple more veteran guys in Pittsburgh and these guys are young but they have the ability" said Bell.

I think most Chiefs fans would gladly take that endorsement.

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