Chiefs Get Defensive

Maybe it's a good thing the Vikings and Chiefs didn't scrimmage before their preseason game on Friday. The Chiefs are looking to bring an attitude to their defense, which in recent seasons has been lacking in punch.

The Chiefs are talking a lot in their Wisconsin training camp about how they must first develop a new more demanding, aggressive, turnover-forcing, almost violent approach if they are ever to turn around their sorry defense of recent years.

Maybe they should let Sammy Knight and Patrick Surtain, the team's new defensive acquisitions from Miami, do most of the talking.

Surtain, remember, has played on Dolphin defenses that ranked among the NFL's top three twice and never finished out of the Top Ten during his seven seasons there. He often hears Chiefs fans talk about hoping the KC defense can improve merely to middle-of-the-road levels in the NFL rankings. Upon hearing this, Surtain moves quickly to quash what fans view as high expectations, but he sees as unproductive limitations.

"We don't want to settle for being mediocre," Surtain said. "I've played on some great defenses, and if you accept (being average), you're going to play like that. You've got to want to be the best in your profession, and when guys take that attitude, the sky is the limit."

Added Knight, a two-year safety with Surtain in Miami, when presented with the same scenario: "When I hear that it makes me sick to my stomach, it makes me want to throw up," Knight thundered.

"These guys are out here busting their (butts) expecting to be the top defense in the league," he added. "That's what we shoot for. Just like our offense is expected to be the top offense in the league, we expect to be the top defense. Anything less is uncivilized."

What's truly upsetting to the stomach is the way the Chiefs defense has regressed since the days when it led the NFL in scoring defense (1995 and ‘97) in Gunther Cunningham's first tour as coordinator.

Since then, however, in a period that began with the death of Derrick Thomas before the 2000 season — Cunningham's second and final as head coach — Kansas City's defense has ranked 18, 23, 32, 29 and 31, the last four during Dick Vermeil's tenure.

Cunningham knows how to start the turnaround.

"You need a cornerstone," he said. "When I was here the first time we had Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and Dale Carter."

But, are there any such players on the current Kansas City roster?

"I think Pat (Surtain) could be one of those guys," Cunningham responded immediately. "Sammy Knight is definitely one."

Knight, now playing the strong safety position, has 35 interceptions over the last eight seasons, six of them in New Orleans. Only Darren Sharper has more in that time.

Surtain has had 25 of his 29 career interceptions in the last five seasons with a real good Dolphin secondary. His goal is to help lift his new KC teammates to comparable levels, beginning in the 2005 season.

"For the last couple years this team has been known for great offenses. But Kansas City has a tradition of great defenses, and we want to get back to that level," Surtain said.

"They brought us in to do a specific job, which is to lead this defense, and that will be a challenge," Surtain added. "But with the guys they brought in (including Kendrell Bell and Carlos Hall) through free agency) and the guys they drafted (i.e., Derrick Johnson), I think we're on our way to changing the whole attitude of our defense."


NOTES

The Chiefs returned some of the $2.4 million in locker room and training room improvements done by the state of Wisconsin and the students of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls by announcing that they would return to Wisconsin for a 16th training camp in 2006.

"The No. 1 reason is what (Wisconsin) has done for us here," explained Chiefs president Carl Peterson. "They've gone beyond the call of duty in building a professional-style locker room and training rooms. Every year before we break camp they ask, ‘Can we do something to make this better?' and they do it. They've never become complacent. This new development is a testament to that."

Peterson is under heavy pressure to return camp to Missouri as a condition of receiving state aid for improvements to Arrowhead Stadium. And while at least four smaller Missouri universities have made training camp proposals, "There was no possible way anybody else could have been ready for us by 2006," Peterson noted. "I had no problem deciding to come back here in 2006."

  • Coach Dick Vermeil clearly isn't happy that second-year player Junior Siavii, the team's top draft pick in 2004, has missed too many days of camp while dealing with tendinitis of the knees — first the right, now the left.

    "He could make the Pro Bowl Rehab team," Vermeil said.

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