Young Guns

The Kansas City Chiefs finally have a quarterback of the future on their roster. Check that. They may have two. OK, so maybe Casey Printers and Brodie Croyle won't both be starting NFL quarterbacks five years from now, but you can't deny they've got realistic potential.

When was the last time the Chiefs had that?

In the past decade, they've gone to training camp with Warren Moon, Todd Collins, Joe Germaine, Ted White, James Kilian, Jonathan Quinn, Pat Barnes and some guy named Billy Joe, just to name a few.

Most of those guys were outstanding clipboard holders. Collins held the clipboard so well that I was shocked he wasn't voted to multiple Pro Bowls during his Kansas City career.

But none of those quarterbacks represented potential. And the potential of Printers and Croyle has Chiefs' quarterbacks coach Terry Shea positively giddy as he watches them in training camp this year.

Brodie Croyle

"Brodie Croyle brings outstanding footwork to the position," said Shea. "He's got a truly lively arm and a quick release. He handles himself in a very natural style, endears himself to the team, and he's very well received by his teammates. You can't find too many bumps in the road with Brodie right now."

There are few bumps right now, and there haven't been any for a long time. When Croyle was in ninth grade, he attended a passing tournament in Kentucky. An opposing coach took notice of Croyle, and was so impressed that he labeled him a "can't-miss" player.

Sure enough, Croyle broke almost every state passing record at Westbrook Christian High School. Then he went to college. And again, he broke almost every passing record in Alabama history.

But if he's going to break any of Len Dawson's records in Kansas City, Croyle admits he's got a long way to go. Alabama ran a pro-style offense under Mike Shula, but the volume of an NFL playbook is daunting.

Fortunately, Croyle's got a great mentor in starter Trent Green.

"It's a different type of learning," said Croyle," but it's not that bad, especially when you've got someone like Trent, who knows the offense so well. He's such a nice guy that he'll come back and explain things to you, and how he saw it."

"He's incredible. He knows the offense so well, and he knows where everybody is on the field. He never looks at the receiver until the last second. It's been fun to watch him. He's a good guy to try and pattern yourself after."

But learning the offense isn't the only hurdle for a rookie quarterback. The NFL is faster, meaner and tougher than college football. It's not an easy transition for any player, but quarterbacks are the only ones that have to stand in the face of a relentless pass rush.

Croyle has already tasted it. Defensive end Jared Allen has been breathing down his neck in River Falls. So has fellow rookie Tamba Hali, who sacked Croyle at the Senior Bowl in January.

"They're beasts, there ain't no doubt about it," said Croyle. "Everybody's just so much faster, and so much bigger, and they understand football. They're not just big, fast guys; they know how to play the game."

Eventually, Croyle will know how to play the NFL game, too. For right now, he's content to wait his turn behind Green.

"I might not be ready right now," said Croyle "but when my time comes I'll be ready, whenever it is."

Casey Printers

All the buzz over Croyle might make some people forget that there is another young quarterback in training camp this year. But he's not hard to pick out of the crowd. He's the only one with a set of wheels.

"One of God's gifts to me is being able to use my athleticism," said Printers. "I'm going to use it until I can't use it anymore. That's one of the things that make me different, and I'm proud of that."

Printers ran for almost 1,000 yards in two years in the CFL. He scored nine rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry when he won the Most Outstanding Player award with the B.C. Lions in 2004.

But don't dismiss him as a Michael Vick clone. Shea is quick to point out that Printers is not a run-first quarterback.

"(Casey) runs out of necessity, and that's a good trait," said Shea. "I don't sense that Casey is a run-first, pass-second player, but he does give us great changeup. As he grows within the offense we have two young quarterbacks that really complement each other."

And like Croyle, Printers will also be complemented by Green. Printers said that he was impressed by the impeccable timing that the veteran displays during practice, and it makes him want to emulate it.

Timing is one thing, but in Canada, Printers played on a huge field in an offense that bears little resemblance to Kansas City's.

Because of that, his learning curve might actually be higher than Croyle's.

"It's a totally new learning situation," said Shea. "(Casey's) got a language barrier learning the offense and all the terminology for the very first time. Not that he doesn't speak English. He does a great job of absorbing the offense, so he's done a nice job from that standpoint. He demonstrates a very strong arm. Every once in awhile, I'll catch him in a windup mode, and in the NFL you want to try to eliminate that kind of mechanic."

Printer's NFL baptism may take time, but he's enjoying the benefits of the league already. He grew up watching wide receiver Dante Hall play at Texas A&M, and is enjoying working with anyone who'll catch his passes.

"Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison are great," said Printers. "It's a pleasure to be out here and watch those guys after seeing them on television for years. When you're actually out here with them, there's nothing better than that."

And the Chiefs would surely love nothing better than to keep both of their young gunslingers. Shea noted that the NFL wanted teams to keep another quarterback when they changed the rules to allow an additional practice squad player.

"Maybe there's a way we can work this out and allow three quarterbacks to be on the roster and one on the practice squad," said Shea. "We've got the right characters and the chemistry at the position to keep four." Top Stories