Chiefs Mid-Week Wrap

Practice notes and team news heading into week three of the 2003 NFL season.

The injury report lists Priest Holmes as questionable, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing in Houston this week after the battering he absorbed in last week's impressive 41-20 win over Minnesota.
   Don't believe it.
   There's no way any sore ribs or an aching back or a sore calf is going to keep Holmes out of a game in Houston, the NFL locale that is as close to a home town as the San Antonio native will find.
   "I'm going to have tons of fans, people I don't even know, showing up -- and I hear the tickets are very, very expensive in Houston," said Holmes, who knows he'll end up purchasing most of those tickets.
  Might as well give the people their money's worth, because heaven knows the Chiefs are getting it from Holmes again this year.
   With 53 touches this year -- 44 carries for 207 yards and 9 receptions for 104 more -- Holmes has the same number of touches he had at this time a year ago when he had 383 touches (313 carries, 70 catches) for a combined 2,287 yards in just 14 3/4 games -- the fourth highest total in NFL history.
   But there is one huge difference between the Priest Holmes of 2003 and 2002. He is, remember, coming off a hip injury that short-circuited his season by nine quarters. An injury some people mistakenly thought would endanger his career.
   "He's got a running back's body," coach Dick Vermeil said Wednesday after Holmes watched practice from the sideline. "He took some pretty good shots all over his body, so he's sore all over. It's like he was last Wednesday, though he was a little more sore today. It was almost game time before he felt real good last week, but I don't think that's unusual."
   The Chiefs have hinted that they'd like to reduce the workload on their workhorse, who personally accounted for 38 percent of Kansas City's total offense last year. Holmes himself says 18 to 24 touches a game sounds like an ideal number to him, especially now that the wear and tear on his body is starting add up.
   At the same time, Chiefs coaches understand that Holmes is a back who gets stronger as the game goes along. Last week against Pittsburgh, after rushing for 78 yards on 16 first-half carries, Holmes -- who injured his ribs and back vaulting into the end zone on a second-quarter TD plunge -- was rocked hard after halftime. His first nine carries of the second half produced only 13 yards, but his final carry of the day was a turn-the-corner, direction-changing 31-yard touchdown run that was a thing of beauty.
   Offensive coordinator Al Saunders understands the danger in trying to limit Holmes.
   "You don't ever like him taking those solid hits," Saunders said. "But, you can't be so protective of him that he doesn't play and gets out of the flow of the game. If he doesn't get into that flow, he's not going to be as effective.
   "He won't make the proper reads, he won't be able to hit the holes like he normally does. At this point he's getting abut what a starting running back in the league should get."
   After leading the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage over the last two seasons, Holmes knows he's a marked man. He welcomes the challenge.
   "I do believe I have the bulls-eye on my chest and that teams are going to go after my legs," Holmes said. "Not necessarily to hurt me, but just to follow their instructions to, OMake sure the guy doesn't get up.'
   "But whatever anyone brings to me -D whether I'm getting hit, bruised, whatever -- doesn't really matter, because I'm going to be there on Sunday."
   Just like he'll be there Sunday in Houston -- sore, but available. Still, if there ever was a time for the Chiefs to try to integrate more weapons into their offense, this is the occasion.
   --Citing the need for depth at linebacker because of a hamstring injury to backup middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell, the Chiefs re-signed linebacker Quinton Caver this week and released reserve nose tackle Tank Reese, an undrafted rookie free agent who was a surprise pick on the initial 53-man roster.
   "We're banged up at linebacker, and we need more linebackers on our special teams," coach Dick Vermeil explained. "Quinton Caver did a great job in training camp. He came within a deep breath of making the team. He can play Sunday as a linebacker or on special teams."
   Reese became expendable now that Eddie Freeman, KC's second-round draft pick last year, appears ready to return to action. Freeman dislocated an elbow early in training camp and has been out of action until returning to practice just recently.
   "Eddie Freeman proved he's a good player last year, and by mid-season he'll be even better," Vermeil said. "He can play inside and outside, and Tank Reese is limited to the nose tackle position.
   --The Chiefs re-signed wide receiver Chris Horn, who made the initial 53-man roster, but was released last week after being inactive for the San Diego opener. The Chiefs signed special teams player Curtis Jackson when they released Horn, then reversed the process this week.
   --LB Kawika Mitchell, who moved into the backup middle linebacker spot, probably won't play against Houston after sustaining his second hamstring injury since the opening of training camp. Mitchell missed more than three weeks of camp with a hamstring injury on one leg, and now has a problem with the other.
   --TE Tony Gonzalez worked Wednesday for the first Wednesday in two weeks. He's battling a sore ankle and knee, which has been a factor in catching only four passes in the seasons' first two games.
   --KR Dante Hall, the AFC's special teams player of the week after returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and a punt 45 yards to set up another score against Pittsburgh, practiced Wednesday despite having a sore throat.
   --CB William Bartee, who missed the first two games with an ankle injury, remains listed as doubtful for Houston despite hopes that he might be able to come back this week. Dexter McCleon will likely start in his place at right corner.
    --DE Eddie Freeman may see his first action of the year -- preseason or regular season -- after recovering from the dislocated elbow he sustained early in training camp.
   --RB Larry Johnson, KC's first-round draft pick, may suit up for his first game Sunday in Houston after being inactive the first two weeks. Johnson's has been getting work as a gunner on punt coverages, and if he's up to special teams work, the Chiefs would like to have him active for a game in which starting RB Priest Holmes is ailing.

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