Veterans Need To Step Up

After three weeks in River Falls and two lackluster exhibition games, the Kansas City Chiefs are in major need of some home cooking and love as they break camp and begin preparations for their first game in Arrowhead next Saturday. Head coach Herman Edwards anticipated his team would be farther along at this point, but he's hardly panicking.

That approach might be easier said than done for the fans, but it's really hard to determine what we've learned about the 2006 Kansas City Chiefs over the last 21 days. Expectations are high, but that's part of the NFL game. Still, I was very impressed with Edwards' comments after the 17-0 defeat in New York.

"Right now we're a team, in my estimation, that is living off our laurels," he said. "We're living off what people are predicting us to be."

Those words might have been the best news of all if you're a Chiefs fan. This is not the start that we all wanted, but the reality check might be the best thing that could happen to this team.

I'm not pleased with the minimal gameplan approach that Edwards' coaching staff has taken into the first two exhibition games, but it could be much, much worse.

Outside of Will Shields' sore ankle, the team has been relatively injury free through two preseason games. But the lack of passion on display in those games is something that clearly goes against Edwards' philosophy.

To his credit, Edwards has always believed that his position coaches should be in charge of their respective groups. He bounces around from one unit to another in practice, so he has yet to put his stamp on this team. That's not a bad thing.

But the center of the team's struggles right now might be the fact that outside of a handful of free agents and draft picks, his predecessor Dick Vermeil put the core of this team together.

And that has an impact on his treatment of Vermeil's veterans. Some of these players have been through three different head coaches in Kansas City, and that has an impact.

When Edwards took over the Chiefs last January, the team had some pretty bad habits that needed to be broken. But those were centered more on work ethic rather than personalities.

To his credit, he has done a good job at delivering the message but this is a veteran team and they've heard it all before. Despite that, the players I've talked to have a tremendous respect for their new head coach, and that's what makes his comments so poignant.

"All of a sudden people who have been riding the ship, they'll jump off the ship," said Edwards. "We've probably got too many people on the ship anyway. I know it's the preseason, but they've got to play with better urgency."

That's really the key for the Chiefs as they get set for the regular season. On Saturday night they'll get a jolt of reality in their first game at Arrowhead this year.

If they don't understand this city's passion and hunger for a winner, the preseason crowd will remind them quickly. Edwards is a first-year head coach, but the bandwagon jumpers will have a short leash if this team struggles against the Rams.

For all practical purposes, this game is the final tune-up for the regular season. The last exhibition against the New Orleans Saints probably won't be a huge factor in determining roster spots, unless someone gets hurt.

The starters will only play a series or two against the Saints, but that won't be the case on Saturday night. Edwards could keep his first team on the field well into the third quarter, especially if they don't step up their efforts on offense and defense.

With that said, this is a critical week of practice for this team. The season opener is three weeks from today, and there is still plenty of time for Edwards to correct the perceived holes on his team.

There is also time for the veterans to step up and act like they're ready to lead the charge for a successful 2006 season. Despite the urgings of their new coaching staff, the players have the ultimate responsibility for their play on the field.

Now is the time for that to happen. There are no more excuses. You don't work this hard during the offseason to fall short of your goals. It's time for every player on this team to show the fire that Edwards has promised to deliver to the fans. Top Stories