Will Shields: Changing of the Guard?

Will Shields proved his patience when he sat through the first 73 picks of the 1993 draft and watched 10 offensive linemen get their names called before his. As the first selection of the Chiefs, both Shields and his new team displayed extreme patience until that selection could be made.

It was a marriage made with patience between athlete and team. Shields immediately understood he needed to sustain that same level of patience once he was part of a team headed by Marty Schottenheimer, a coach who carried the unofficial policy to never start rookies.

The team's plan was to bring Shields along gradually and eventually insert him into the starting lineup in a couple of years. Shields' plan was to digest everything for however long it would take to learn and master it. The plan was patience, and reward through patience. By no means was it desired to insert a rookie into the lineup to block for living legends Joe Montana and Marcus Allen. Unfortunately, guard Dave Szott went down with an injured knee on opening day. In came Shields, and out the door went patience.

Fittingly, he made his Kansas City Chiefs debut on the same day Joe Montana and Marcus Allen did. At the time, two of these three players were considered to be among the best at their position in NFL history. Over the past 13 seasons, the third has achieved that level of honor as well.

Will Shields put together a string of 207 straight starts and has etched his name in stone on the annual Pro Bowl invitation for 11 straight years. The perennial Pro Bowl right guard has displayed his prowess on many of the NFL's greatest offensive lines.

Whether playing alongside Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott, or Casey Wiegmann and Brian Waters, Shields has consistently upheld a level of excellence on the Chiefs offensive line. It's no coincidence the level of play on the line has been sustained for as long as Shields has led the charge.

Will Shields entered the league the year the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was put into place. It's this same CBA that may very well put into question the future of Shields and the bond he has had with this organization and city. The closer we get to a non-agreement in an extension of the CBA, the more we are forced to consider a Chiefs team without the Shields' services.

The Chiefs are close to $20 million over the salary cap without a new CBA. Team President Carl Peterson is now forced to consider a separation with Shields that would bring $5.5 million in cap relief.

With Shields counting $6.67 million against the cap, it's a foregone conclusion there will be a move of some sort. Whether that move is a clear-cut axe or a restructured contract is yet to be determined.

Will Shields contemplated retirement last off-season, and he apparently is going through the same thought process this off-season. Complicating the matter is a battle with an arthritic back and the issues with cap and the CBA.

Unlike last year when he could take the whole off-season to come to his decision, Shields now has until 10:00 PM eastern time on March 3rd, when all teams must be below the cap.

All signs point to Shields retiring a Chief. Whether that happens this year or next is another question.

Of course as the history of the CBA has shown us, weird things happen. The teammates Shields once blocked for (Montana and Allen) ended their careers away from the teams that drafted them. It's not out of the question that the CBA will rear its ugly head once again and rob hometown fans of another living legend.

It sure would be nice to see No. 68's poetry in motion for one more season.

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