Mitchell Ready to Tackle Middle of Defense

Last season was a difficult one for Kansas City Chiefs middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell. Battling injuries and himself, Mitchell found himself not only in the middle of the Chiefs defense, but also in the middle of the firestorm surrounding the beleaguered unit.

The middle linebacker spot was not where you wanted to be last season. Opposing offenses had their way with the Chiefs defense. So the Chiefs went out and surrounded Mitchell with some new players and starters. By the time the Chiefs begin the season in September, there may be as many as five new starters on defense and Mitchell's not ready to give his spot away yet.

"Right now, that's what I feel like. That's where I'm at right now. They've got me running with the ones. And that's what it is, so stick with it," Mitchell said after the teams first workout in River Falls.

Last season both Mitchell and reserve linebacker Monty Beisel took turns replacing each other in the lineup. Both battled injuries and inconsistency in 2004. Mitchell battled ankle injuries through the first part of last season. When the conversation turns to those injuries, Mitchell is philosophical.

"We had injures. I got injured, Beisel stepped in, he got injured, I stepped in. The injuries can be nagging. No matter how healthy you try to stay, it's just something you can't help sometimes. You try to do your best to stop it from happening, but sometimes it just comes along, and it's just about how you come back," he says.

He knows that they'll be plenty of competition for the starting spot. Mike Maslowski could be back as early as Friday, rookie fifth round draft pick Boomer Grigsby is already running with the second team and NFL Europe standout Rich Scanlon is breathing down his neck. Mitchell spent the off-season honing his game and working to improve his body.

"You just try to fine tune everything. You work on all aspects of your game, pretty much, I mean, there's not one weakness or one strength you try to leave alone, or you try to work on harder. You just try to work on everything," Mitchell says.

The key this year for Mitchell is to take what he's learned the last two seasons and try to avoid some of the pitfalls that have detoured him from more playing more consistently. "The game has slowed down a lot for me, you know, I think it did last year towards the end, and I think it's just getting experience, and I know what I'm doing now, so it's a lot different."

Still Mitchell is taking nothing for granted. He knows that this team will have to work together and the parts around him have to be confident in his abilities to make plays. He hopes that his teammates understand that message because expectations will be higher this season especially with the new additions to the defensive squad.

"From the feeling of things, the way we communicate with each other, the way that we feel (about)each other, I think it'll be ten times better. I think we're trying to get it back to what it's supposed to be in Kansas City, what I grew up watching," he said with confidence.

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