These guys were starting to get it.
It started in the offseason when 99% of the players, both veteran and unsigned rookies, showed up to every training session and workout. It continued through training camp when the team broke from a morning practice and headed for some laughs and snores at a St. Joe movie theater. It continued with a Mo Carthon led running backs drill with the Porta-Potty serving as an interesting yet clever prop.
But up until last Friday, these team building exercises had not transitioned from the practice field to game day.
Haley has players falling in line.
I didn't see it at all during the Falcons loss. I saw a flash of it at Tampa Bay. But it was glaringly obvious after an embarrassing opening quarter to the Eagles. It was demonstrated by Andy Studebaker and Demorrio Willliams two sacks. It was showcased by Dexter McCluster's toughness and was apparent on the defensive line throughout.
But what really solidified this teams progress, and has set them apart from teams in recent history, is the moment when Cameron Sheffield went down with a with what appeared to be a very serious neck injury.
As the rookie linebacker laid motionless on the field as trainer prepared him for the stretcher, a very large group of Chiefs began kneeling in a circle towards the center of the field.
Despite watching from what seemed to be a mile away in the new press box, the circle of players appeared to be larger than you would usually see.
As I searched up and down the sideline for some red, it was inspiring to see not one Chiefs player talking to a coach or staying warm on the bike. All the Chiefs players' and coaching staffs' attention was focused on the impromptu prayer circle that had formed for their fallen comrade.
Although a debilitating injury is the very worst part of sports, I have rarely seen a more symbolic expression of a team's unity than was displayed on the field Friday night. Regardless of who they were praying too, and whether they were praying at all, every player bonded together as a team to show support and inspire their teammate.
Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has increased the talent pool both on the field and in the coaching box since his arrival in January of 2009.
Sheffield returned to practice Sunday with little to no scares from the scary moment. One thing he will walk away with is the knowledge that his team has his back. In turn, he will have theirs. Although just one piece of the puzzle, these feelings of oneness have a way of being contagious.
Scott Pioli's ability to accumulate talent and build depth has already begun to pay dividends. But the one thing Pioli can't control is how the coaching staff builds this team. When adding Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis to the coaching staff, many wondered what Haley's role within the team would be. To this point, his emphasis seems to be on taking his players from not just teammates, but making them brothers in arms.
So far, it appears to be a success. And being in the still early stages of a complete organizational overhaul, nothing we can take from this preseason could be more telling of this team's improvement.