The Change In The Chiefs

RIVER FALLS, Wis. - The Kansas City Chiefs are ready for whistles to start blowing and pads to start cracking. They're ready to redeem themselves after a 2-14 2008 season. Saturday morning's practice is another opportunity to show that this training camp is different and that they'll be different.

They don't just want change on a roster or a change in a coach. They want a change in wins.

It's been talked about already and it was expected, so the fact that the success of the physical conditioning test was important for the team is understood. There's a few ways you could look at the three 300-yard shuttle runs most players managed to conquer Friday.

You could say it's what they had to do. Either pass or don't practice or even worse, risk your job. You could also say that being in the best physical shape as possible come game time is important when it comes to competing with other teams.

But the way I'd like to think about, and the way the Chiefs may be looking at it, is that it was more than a test of physical ability. It was a test of something that can't be seen on a stop watch or in a player's physique. It was a test of something on the inside—the heart and mind.

Ask the Chiefs and they'll tell you just where theirs are at. They'll tell you that the changes that have occurred have been good for them, including the much anticipated conditioning test because it symbolizes the commitment and competition that has ignited a desire to be that different team, player and teammate.

Ask veteran center Rudy Niswanger.

"It's a great mentality coming into now," he said. "It's an attitude of competition, an attitude of excitement. I think that's what changed in the offseason. We approached every drill, everything we did as a competition situation and thriving on that competition and never backing down from it."

Delaying his meal Friday afternoon, Niswanger said despite the struggles KC's offensive line has had the last couple years, it's ready to perform at a higher level in 2009.

"It's not about changing people to improve," he said. "A lot of times it's just one getting more experience. We had a lot of young guys the last two years that took our licks and improved. We're going into a new year with more experienced players at every position. It's a new Chiefs, it's a new day, and it's a new year and we're all excited about the possibilities it brings."

The Chiefs arrived in River Falls a changed team.
Orlin Wagner - AP

After adding eight pounds to his frame, running back Jamaal Charles is different and said he knows what it takes and how he wants things to be different this season.

"It doesn't matter if you're big or small," he said. "If you've got heart you can do anything. Last year, I'm not going to comment on last year, ‘cause we just didn't win any games. I want to win more games so this year is all about getting better this year."

Safety Jarrad Page said the team just needs to tackle on defense, and they'll be fine. The addition of veteran safety Mike Brown from Chicago has added competition at the position for Page, Bernard Pollard and DaJuan Morgan, but Page said that hasn't changed how he will step out on the field.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said.

Kansas City's new defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast from the Arizona Cardinals, has brought a new look with a 3-4 defense, another change that Page said he welcomes.

"Clancy came in and made it really simple," he said. "The defense is straight forward. He explains to you why we do certain things, that's one of the things he wants you to know is why he calls certain things and when we're going to do it, so you're not just out there not knowing why we're in a certain defense."

In addition to the overall franchise and the defensive scheme, Page feels like he's changing too as he enters his fourth season with Kansas City.

"My development personally has gone well," he said. "That was not a great thing to be a part of last year as far as our overall record, but I feel like my development as a player has gone well and I feel like I'm getting to the point where I need to be."

No longer a rookie, but yet to earn the status of a veteran, second-year tight end Brad Cottam has been captured by the positive feeling that's in the air. He's also undergone a physical change of his own.

"Definitely right now everyone's excited, it's new and we're ready to play football," he said. "I'm happy right now, I'm excited to get on the field and see how things click once we get the pads on. I was like 280 [pounds] last year and thought I just had to be big and strong in the NFL. This year it was a little bit more making sure I'm in shape and not tired while I'm out there."

Linebacker Derrick Johnson has noticed the changes and said not only are the Chiefs ready for change on defense, but that he likes the new scheme and is ready to be let loose.

"Right now mentally we're just trying to learn everything, learn the schemes," he said. "Once we get that mental part out of the way, it's about time for our first game. It does fit me, it fits me really well. Like I've been saying, half of the defenses we're running we ran in college, so I'm psyched up about it. Now it's real ball with the pads on and you see what you get. Every year I'm trying to get better so my mindset every year is to be better than I was last year. I can't wait for it."

Change has happened and it's occurring now. The Chiefs expressed it with their words and actions during their first opportunity – the physical conditioning test. Saturday they get their second opportunity at 9 a.m. Top Stories