Chiefs Ready to Put Preseason Blues behind Them

No self-respecting NFL coach worth his weight in clichés would go into the season opener without a long list of worries. Dick Vermeil, though, sounded like a man plagued by self-doubt as he ran through a litany of concerns generated during the Chiefs' winless preseason.

Perhaps that's understandable after a summer of missed practice time by key offensive personnel - a concession to advancing years – embarrassing off-field training-camp incidents involving the police, the suspension of a top cornerback and the top reserve lineman and, at the end, a vascular surgery performed to open a constricted artery in the surgically repaired leg of the starting quarterback just 10 days before Sunday's season opener with the Jets.

And so it was that the normal woe-is-us approach before the season opener became an especially sad song for a 69-year-old football coach approaching what could be his final NFL season.

"I'm concerned, No. 1, about our passing attack. I'm concerned about whether we can all of a sudden jump into high gear when we've been cruising in second," Vermeil said of a unit that played in only eight preseason series with their starting quarterback.

Trent Green, a veritable iron man who has taken every significant snap in 65 consecutive games (one in the playoffs) since his 2001 arrival in Kansas City, took only 56 preseason snaps - compared to the 75 to 85 optimum - before he was sidelined in the third preseason game with numbness in his lower leg and foot.

After a long battery of tests, Green underwent vascular surgery on Aug. 30 and had a stent installed to open a constricted artery behind his left knee, the one that sustained multiple injuries and required four corrective surgeries after the 1999 hit that kept him out of the Rams' Super Bowl campaign and threatened his career.

After sitting out the fourth preseason game against the Rams, Green took a full load of regular work during practices on Monday and Wednesday. And while it appears he will be at close to full speed for the Jets opener, it's also true that this week marks the first time this year that Green has been able to work with his full offensive complement.

Pro Bowl guard Will Shields missed most of the Wisconsin summer camp with back problems. Pro Bowl tackle Willie Roaf generally worked only once a day.

Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez was slowed by off-season foot surgery, and then he broke a pinky finger in the preseason opener against Minnesota. Young right tackle Kevin Sampson dislocated a toe and remains doubtful for the opener.

The lack of practice time can be overcome by a veteran offense that has been essentially intact for four seasons during which Kansas City's offense made a 5-4-2-1 advancement in the AFC total offense ranks. But Vermeil had a long litany of other concerns.

"I'm concerned about our field goal kicker (Lawrence Tynes), will he be what I think he can be?" Vermeil noted. "I'm concerned that (kick returner) Dante Hall is still not 100 percent. I'm concerned that our right tackle (Kevin Sampson) is not 100 percent. Those kinds of things bother you."

So does the loss of John Welbourn, a starting right tackle last year and a key backup this year, for the first four games to an NFL suspension for steroid use. He'll corner starting corner Eric Warfield in the stands as Warfield serves his four-game suspension for violating the league's alcohol abuse policy.

Add it all up and it doesn't leave Vermeil with a real good feeling heading into an opener against a 10-6 perennial playoff contender.

"I would just as soon be wrong, and I'm wrong a lot," he noted. "But, I'm also right some. I've been this concerned before - and a couple of those seasons weren't very good."

CHIEFS NOTES: Good News for the Surtain Family

Patrick Surtain is concentrating more on football these days after learning just last weekend that his father, unaccounted for since Hurricane Katrina ravaged his New Orleans the previous Monday, had survived.

"His house is destroyed, but he's OK," Surtain said of his father, who lives in a flooded area east of the French Quarter. "He was stubborn; we told him to get out, but he wanted to ride it out. He told us he was sorry that he didn't listen, and know he's looking forward to getting on with his life.

"Last week, not knowing if my dad was safe, was an emotional roller coaster," Surtain added. "I know a lot of people had to deal with the same situation. But it was tough and it tested me a bit. The Lord saw fit to find my dad, and I thank God that he's OK. Now I can get back to football."

Surtain, a native of New Orleans, said he looks forward to the Week Five bye as a time to do something for his friends and family who've been displaced by the tragedy.

"I don't think even the pictures on TV gives us the full view of what the city I know has gone through. I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can do to help."

Dick Vermeil will always have fond memories of Jets head coach Herman Edwards, the former cornerback who came out of professional nowhere to engineer the now-famous Miracle of the Meadowlands for Vermeil's 1978 Philadelphia Eagles.

"He was a guy who took great pride in his contribution to the defense and his own fundamental approach to the game," Vermeil said. "I don't know if I've ever worked with a corner that worked so hard to hone his skills to a level where he could compete. He didn't have great speed, probably below average speed, but he worked and disciplined himself more than any corner I've worked with. I believe these attributes carry over to his leadership skills and to his football team."

Vermeil is 4-1 lifetime against the Jets, but only 1-1 with the Chiefs against Edwards.

The Kansas City Chiefs will honor the late Hank Stram, the Hall of Fame coach of the Super Chiefs, with a moment of silence before the Jets game.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"Even if you're not completely ready, you have to play like you are or think that you are. There are no more excuses." Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, on whether Kansas City's offense was truly ready for the season after a lack of playing time together in the 0-4 preseason.

BY THE NUMBERS
12-4 - Kansas City's record in home opener since the Carl Peterson era began in 1989.
1-4 - KC's home opener record since the turn of the century.
13 - The number of new faces on the Chiefs roster from a year ago.
10 - The new faces on the Chiefs' defense.
2 - Chiefs serving four-game suspensions for violating league substance abuse rules.

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