Pope comes to Kansas City after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals earlier this season. After being selected in the third round of the 2006 draft, Pope started 25 games for Arizona the last three seasons, appearing in 42 overall. When Pope came out of Georgia, his size and athletic ability awed observers, including Todd Haley, who coached the tight end in Arizona.
"Leonard's a big guy who's real tough," he said. "He's fast. He can really stretch the field."
Haley and Pope are more than just former teammates. Wednesday, Haley praised Pope's work ethic, calling him one of his "favorites" from his tenure with the Cardinals.
"He will give you a full day's work, your money's worth every single day," said Haley. "He likes to play, he likes to practice. He's my kind of guy, and with him out there, and we got the opportunity with some of these changes, we were happy to be able to get him."
Pope returned the warm sentiment, saying he was happy to be in Kansas City and had been embraced by the team so far.
"We're just going to try to turn this thing around," he said. "I love Todd. He's the type of guy that's going to push. He's going to get every inch of everything out of you. A lot of guys probably have to learn that about him and stuff. Some may think he's someone else, but you've got to have thick skin. That's the kind of coach he is."
The Chiefs have lacked a real receiving threat at tight end since Tony Gonzalez's departure, which is to be expected, and Pope's presence might be able to fill some of that void. Though his receiving numbers haven't been spectacular – 48 catches and five touchdowns in three years - he's just entering his fourth year as a pro. His size and speed should scare opposing secondaries at least a little.
It wasn't too long ago another of Haley's former players – Bobby Wade - arrived in Kansas City and made an immediate impact the following Sunday. If Pope is to replicate Wade's feat, he has some late nights in front of him. However, the fact that he's just an offseason removed from an offense run by Haley might give him a head start.
"I think that's a huge advantage for him and us," said Haley. "He's coming into a situation that he knows a lot of stuff that's going on, and that obviously will help him work his way."
"(The offense) is kind of the same," said Pope. "It's got tweaks here and there and what not, but I've just got to get back up to date with things. I've been off for a couple weeks, I've just got to get this thing going."
The Chiefs also made some intra-squad movement earlier this week, as Ryan O'Callaghan has leapfrogged Ike Ndukwe on the depth chart at right tackle. While O'Callaghan practiced with the first team Wednesday, Haley seemed reluctant to call the switch anything but indefinite, saying it didn't indicate who would start Sunday against the New York Giants.
"It's going to be determined on how we practice and how the guys practice," he said. "This is how we practiced today. We're going to look at the tape and see how everybody did. We were not good enough on Sunday at a lot of positions, at a lot of positions. There were not a lot of guys that when we went through the grades, we said ‘Hey, he's giving us a chance to win.' I'm in no way singling out anybody, but if we feel there's somebody practicing well that can do a better job than anybody, then we're going to at least try it out in practice and see what it looks like."
Some might level criticism over this move, citing that an offensive line needs time to gel and learn to play together. While taking reps with the first team away from Ndukwe might be counterproductive, Haley sees it differently.
"We're in the process of shaping this team," he said. "I think it's critical that we understand, and all the players understand, and everybody really understands that this is the beginning stages of the process, and one thing that's going to be clear to the players is there's going to be changes as we try to improve and get better each week. They can't let it affect them in any way, shape or form, other than to push them to be better each and every day that they're in here and each and every Sunday. We've been pretty clear with the guys about that."
Two players Haley and general manager Scott Pioli brought in to further "push" incumbent players are linebacker David Herron and cornerback Mike Richardson. They share a common trait that Haley likes – speed.
"(Herron's) got very good speed," said Haley. "He's a run and hit guy. What I know of him is he's got the chance to be a good special teamer first, and any time we have the chance to improve our team speed, I think we need to do it, and he's a fast guy. Mike Richardson, the Notre Dame corner, he's a fast guy. I think, again, when we can improve our team speed on either side we need to do it."
Haley Welcomes Pope To KC
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