When Az Hakim addressed the local media after Wednesday's OTA's, he made it clear that he wanted everyone to understand why he chose the Chiefs over the Saints. New Orleans was the other team that had been courting Hakim. But Kansas City won out for obvious reasons.
"Mainly for one offensively and scheme-wise and what they do and how my routes are already developed for this type of offense Coach Saunders and Dick Vermeil run. Offensively their type of structure for me is right so I thought it would be an ideal situation," Hakim told the media.
The situation that Hakim is referring to is one that puts him in an offense where he does not have to be the go-to guy like he was in Detroit. After he left the Rams after four solid seasons and two Super Bowl trips, he fell victim to high expectations after signing a lucrative contract before the start of the 2002 season.
Last year he only scored three touchdowns and caught just 31 balls for the Lions. Not stellar numbers for someone who was projected to be a starter and a major player in the Lions West Coast offense. But with an inconsistent quarterback in Joey Harrington plus a running game that struggled, Hakim and the other Lions receivers were put in impossible situations each week.
In Kansas City, Hakim understands his role is not to be a starter at least not yet. He'll have to compete for a roster spot and that's just fine with him. "I have to go out there and compete just like everyone else. There are no guarantees but I am going to go out there and leave everything on the field," Hakim said.
As for his Head Coach Dick Vermeil really didn't have to persuade Hakim to join Kansas City. But he wanted to make sure that he knew what was ahead of him if he joined the Chiefs. In fact, Vermeil told Hakim that he'd have to earn a roster spot.
"First, Az has to make the football team. He knows the situation. We've got a lot of good young receivers who are competing. He's going to be very competitive; there's no question about it. But we're not giving him a position to play; he's going to have to work like everybody else does," Vermeil said.
But the most critical aspect for Hakim will be to stay healthy. He's battled injuries to his hip and knee and for the first time since he left the Rams, he enters the season in reality decent health.
When asked by reporters about his health issues the last three years, Hakim was strong in his conviction that he'll be ready to go this season. "Absolutely, I am healthy," Hakim told reporters.
"I had a dislocated hip in 2002. I have been playing ever since then and haven't had any problems with my hip. I had a loose body part as far as my knee concerned. You are going to get your nicks and injuries in a place football of your career. I came back from my hip injury and I feel really good right now as far as my body movement. I have been working real hard this off-season."
The Chiefs hope Hakim will return to the form that made him a productive participant while he played for the Rams. th or playing time but his relationship with Vermeil. His best days in the NFL were in St. Louis and his most productive season was when the Rams won the Super Bowl back in 1999. Hakim knows that he played his best ball under Vermeil and he hopes to do the same in Kansas City with the Chiefs.
"Coach Vermeil is a loyal coach. From my understanding he loves to surround himself with great guys on his team," Hakim said.
"If he feels you're a good guy regardless if you're a winner of player or not. If you come in with a great character and have a work ethic as far as winning is concerned your going to be a Dick Vermeil guy. I was blessed and fortunate enough to respect to his style."
The move to sign Hakim could mean that Dante Hall will concentrate more on the return game for the Chiefs this year. It was an off-season goal for Kansas City to try and limit his offensive reps of Hall into this offense in 2005. Vermeil for one knows that Hall has limitations and he also understands his real value on this team.
"I know this: it's hard for a guy to be a great punt returner and play 45 or 50 snaps of offense as well, especially if your defense is shutting them down and they're punting a lot or they're scoring and you're returning a lot," Vermeil said about Hall.
The Chiefs will have training camp to sort out the role for Hakim and Hall but this addition to the roster is one that can benefit the Chiefs far more than it will cost them in time lost developing a young receiver like Samie Parker or Craphonso Thorpe. Kansas City needs another veteran receiver on offense to go along with Eddie Kennison and Hakim fits the bill; at least for one season provided he makes the final 53-man roster.
"I have something to prove every time I step on the field," Hakim says. "I just come to play football and this is what I love to do."
Opportunity Knocks for Chiefs and Hakim
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