It's Now Or Never for Sims

If Kansas City Chiefs' defensive tackle Ryan Sims is to ever sign a high-dollar contract in the NFL again, he'll have to do something that he hasn't done in his four seasons with the Chiefs: Play at a consistently high level.

Sims is entering the fifth year of a seven-year rookie contract that he signed in 2002 after the Chiefs selected him with the sixth pick in the first round.

When Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson drafted Sims, he thought he was getting a player that would demand double teams from opposing offensive lines. He thought he was getting a space-eater and a guy that would explode off the line of scrimmage and plug gaps with his 6-foot-4, 315-pound frame.

So far Sims has failed to live up those expectations. After showing up to mini-camp last month a few pounds overweight, you have to wonder if he'll ever develop the work ethic and drive that's necessary to become a successful player.

The problem with Sims is that he has been impossible to motivate. Former coach Dick Vermeil was unable to get through to him during his tenure. When Sims arrived to his first training camp, Vermeil called Sims "fat and out of shape."

Many fans and media have already started knocking him this off-season. By now, the words "Ryan Sims" and "bust" are practically synonymous.

While his play is usually uninspiring, he has shown flashes of brilliance. During a three-game stretch in 2003, Sims had 14 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.

Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to maintain that type of production and is usually mired in mediocrity. He takes too many plays off and has more disappearing acts than a magician.

It doesn't take a football guru to realize that Sims' energy level drops over the course of a game. More often than not, he gets pushed around in the fourth quarter and shows signs of fatigue.

Again, he has been able to make some big plays (think back to the Denver game at Arrowhead in 2003, when Sims made a game-saving tackle on third down against running back Clinton Portis), but too often he is a liability.

He doesn't pressure the quarterback the way he did as a three-year starter at the University of North Carolina. He has just five sacks in his entire career.

So how can the Chiefs get Sims to realize his potential?

Head coach Herman Edwards and his staff shouldn't take the approach that Vermeil tried.

Vermeil was a huge critic of running back Larry Johnson and often used the media to try and get his point across. He questioned Johnson's character and moved him behind Derrick Blaylock on the depth chart. Vermeil's plan worked to perfection, as Johnson tried hard to prove himself and had a breakout season in 2005.

The same approach didn't work for Sims, a player that clearly frustrated Vermeil despite the work he put in last season to return from a foot injury.

If Vermeil were still coaching the Chiefs, he probably would have had a few negative comments about Sims arriving to mini-camp a few pounds overweight. But Edwards seems to be taking a positive approach with Sims.

"I'm not worried about him," Edwards said. "Some big guys in the off-season, they gain a couple of extra pounds. He's a pro … he'll get down to where he needs to play again."

The Chiefs are also hoping that their new defensive line coach, Tim Krumrie, can light a spark. Krumrie has a reputation around the league as being a fiery, hands-on coach. If he can't get Sims excited about playing football then nobody can.

Sims is lucky to still have a spot on the Chiefs' roster. The 2006 season could be his last chance to prove himself.

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