Key Fox: Room For One More?

Don't get me started about the talent of Kansas City's linebackers. Derrick Johnson, Donnie Edwards and Napoleon Harris are the best trio Chiefs fans have had in the starting lineup since Bobby Bell, Jim Lynch and Willie Lanier played together in the 70's.

But not even those guys took every snap. Sooner or later they had to rest, and there might not be a better fourth linebacker to give KC's current linebackers a break than Keyaron Fox.

Two months ago I was talking with Fox after the team completed its foray into free agency by signing Harris and Edwards. When I went up to him in the locker room I asked him if he felt like he couldn't catch a break. All he said in response was:

"Oh boy, time to go to work."

As training camp hits the first-week mark, some players are melting in the River Falls heat. But others are establishing themselves as players who intend to make an impact on the Chiefs in 2007. Fox plans on being one of them.

The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is entering his money year in the NFL. After three seasons of part-time duty, he was set to become a starter in 2007. That all changed in March with the signing of Edwards.

But that hasn't stopped him from working hard or staying upbeat on his chances to crack the starting lineup.

"It feels good get to get back out on the practice field," he told me Tuesday.

That's the sign of a mature player who is ready to impress his head coach and defensive coordinator. There's no question that Herm Edwards has a bit of an edge to him in this training camp. That's just fine with Fox.

"Whatever it takes to get us a championship," Fox said of his head coach.

Every NFL team needs guys who can step off the bench or spot start. Fox is that kind of guy, but what Edwards needs out of him this season is to raise his level of play when he's called upon. Donnie Edwards has only missed two games in 11 years. Harris has only missed six games in five seasons. In contrast, Johnson missed all or part of five games last year.

The bottom line is that Fox is going to get playing time this year. In fact, if the Chiefs were to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, there's little doubt he'd be the fourth starting linebacker.

Regardless if he starts or not, he'll have some shoes to fill no matter where he lines up because the three linebackers in front of him all have talent, playmaking ability and speed. Fox has displayed all of that thus far in River Falls. That could be in large part to the fact he likes the up-tempo aspect of this defense.

"We've got a younger crew and everyone is flying around," said Fox. "We have premier athletes on defense. I think that's what Gunther Cunningham has been waiting on."

With players like Fox, Cunningham has versatility in the linebacker corps. And in order for this defense to play to its potential, everyone has to play well, including the backups. That means Fox needs to stay healthy this season in what will be a contract year for the potential 2008 free agent.

"This is my last year of my deal," he said. "Staying healthy is a major focus. If that happens I will get on the field. I'm just focusing on getting the defense down whether it's the defense or special teams."

But he's also a realist and knows that in the last year of his contract his future in Kansas City might ride on making the most of his opportunities this season.

But for now, Fox blocks all that out. He concentrates on doing what he has to do on the field to take care of business. But that doesn't mean he doesn't notice all the attention the Chiefs are getting from the HBO cameras filmingHard Knocks in River Falls.

"I got mic'd up this morning," Fox said on Tuesday. "It was difficult for me because I had to watch what I say."

Obviously Fox doesn't have to worry about being noticed anymore. This coaching staff knows what he can do. All they need to do now is find a place for Fox and he'll do the rest.

"I just want to help this team wherever I can," he said.

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