Stills in Battle to Make Roster

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Gary Stills is fighting. The Chiefs now have a slew of talented linebackers, and the seventh year linebacker is aggressively trying not to get lost in the wash. With all this new talent surrounding him, Stills is still determined to make his mark.

A Pro Bowl special teams performer, Stills was drafted by the Chiefs as a linebacker out of West Virginia. After playing him three seasons as a combination linebacker/end, the Chiefs moved Stills to permanent rush end. Stills was a solid performer, although playing primarily as a situational player. This season defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham moved Stills permanently to outside linebacker. Here he's competing for a roster spot against other talented linebackers like Rich Scanlon, Quentin Caver and rookie free agent Kris Griffin.

"I'm real comfortable," said Stills, "because I know what the front is doing, what the big guys are doing, so it makes it a lot easier. But as far as some of the adjustments to the scheme, I've got to get that stuff down. It's good that they consider me as a utility man, as someone who can put my hand down and stand up in the linebacker position, and as someone who knows the defense as a whole. That could almost secure myself a roster spot."

Still, it is difficult for Stills not to be aware of his situation.

"I try my best, and it's very hard," Stills said, "to stay out of the numbers game, because you can get wrapped up in it. The main thing is to do your part and work as hard as you can, so you can get your roster spot on the 53 man. My goal this year is to get us to the Super Bowl, and to play in the Pro Bowl, and that's the thing for me. It's hard not to get wrapped up in the numbers game, but you just have to stay away from it."

This offseason, the Chiefs brought in several key defensive players to improve last year's defense. After an offseason of much fanfare, the Chiefs played their first game of the preseason and were defeated by the Minnesota Vikings. A big part of the loss can be shouldered by the defense, which allowed several big plays that either scored or led directly to a score. Stills believes there's still no reason to panic.

"That's to be expected," Stills said. "It's fortunate that we have preseason games, to get some of the rust spots out and get back into it, get the feel of the scheme under pressure. Out here at practice, you're not really under pressure, because whatever mistakes you make can be corrected. It can be corrected in a game, too, but not really on the spot. It's good to have preseason games. I made some mistakes out there, covering some kicks, but I'll fix that."

After Friday's game, the frustration of the Kansas City media and fans boiled over. After three seasons of defensive frustration, the Chiefs faithful were expecting to see more from the defense, and although the defense did many things well, they lashed out at the Chiefs. Instead of focusing on the positives, fans and media alike focused on the negative aspects of the game. Stills tries not to be affected by what he reads or hears.

"Really, I personally don't care, because we've got to work hard. That's like anything. If people see you as a bad person, you may do nine good things and one bad thing and they'll still turn their back on you. Like our offense. They can score ten touchdowns and miss one; they're still considered the greatest. You can take that and go both ways with it. I hope that (people) see that we're going to be a real good defense this year. We've got new guys and we've got to feel each other out. And even though we're out here banging, it only matters when we match up on Sundays."

For the past six seasons Stills has managed to find a way to stick on this roster, but in 2005 all bets are off as he and a host of veterans, rookies and draft picks are fighting for just a few jobs.

"We've got a lot of guys here, and they can play," Still said. "That's the fortunate thing that Gunther has." Top Stories