Respect is important to NFL players.
When a player like Derrel Revis holds out and misses camp, most people believe that it is because he is greedy. “He wants more money,” they say.
Yet to Revis, it may be more of an issue of respect than money. I am sure Revis is saying to himself, “I am the very best in the entire world at what I do. All I am asking is to be compensated accordingly by my employer. I should not be making less than colleagues that I am outperforming.”
My colleague Big Matt wrote an article earlier about his worries over Thomas Jones getting the start over Jamaal Charles in Friday night’s preseason game. I know a lot of the Addicts out there in Chiefs Nation are worried because of this. I totally understand these worries. It is easy to sit in the armchair and watch a game and see one guy do well and another guy do not so well and to call the coach a bonehead for playing the Guy A earlier than Guy B.
Yet, I think in this early stage of the preseason, it is important for us to think about what is going on in the Chiefs locker room and not just what we see on TV. I think a lot of what we are seeing has to do with respect.
While I am sure most of us would agree that Jamaal Charles has earned the first and last carry in any Chiefs game for the coming year, in the eyes of some of the some of the football players, Thomas Jones has earned the starting spot. The guy is a proven veteran with years of production to show for it while Charles is a talented youngster who has 1/2 a season starting under his belt. To the point of view of some in the locker room, Charles had a few good games while Jones has had a few good years.
When Herm Edwards “went young” a lot of the veteran players complained that it was unfair and that young guys were getting starting spots over veteran guys. They felt that the veterans had no chance and that starting spots were being handed to young guys who hadn’t done jack in the NFL. When I interviewed Kyle Turley he told me the same thing. He said Herm’s actions left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of the veterans.
“These guys are proud,” he said to me.
In a way, Haley is increasing competition while also placating his veterans to some degree. It might have insulted Jones to see a kid like Charles start over him after he rushed for over 1400 yards last season. Then again, if Jones is shown respect and given an honest shot at earning playing time, he is more likely to become a team player.
I imagine he felt good about getting the start on Friday. Then, after he went out, he was able to watch Charles and think to himself “Hey, this kid is good, we’re going to be a dynamic team.” Maybe if Haley started Charles, Jones would have been insulted. He might have sat on the sideline fuming, watching some punk kid, who hasn’t accomplished a quarter of what Jones has, get his touches.
Mike Vrabel, who started all of last year, mentored Andy Studebaker. Vrabel got the start again on Friday. In certain situations, he moved inside and watched Studebaker come in and play well. Vrabel is no fool. He knows he is reaching the end of the line. Yet, he is also aware that he still has value and that his coaches know it. He sees that they are bending over backwards to keep him on the field in some way while also developing their young talent.
Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays were told last season that they had a chance to start if they worked hard enough. They were then rewarded when their head coach started them and stood by them even when he faced major criticism for benching Derrick Johnson. They know they didn’t play great football. Williams knows he didn’t have any picks, sacks or forced fumbles. Mays knows he was often out of position.
Yet when they return to camp, they are given an honest shot to retain their jobs. Johnson and Belcher are being given an honest shot to take those jobs. All four men are racing each other around the practice field. How can this be bad? If Haley really wants DJ and Belcher to seize the starting spots, what good is he doing handing them the jobs from the off? Before Friday, they had only practice. He very well could be keeping that carrot dangling in front of them. After all, there are 3 more preseason games to go. Yet no matter what happens, Mays and Williams are unlikely to every say they didn’t get a fair shake.
People were complaining when Derrick Johnson was still playing late in to the 4th quarter with the reserves instead of for two series’ with the starters. Yet Johnson did next to nothing with all that extra playing time. He had no picks, no forced fumbles, no sacks, no nothing. He had 1 tackle. He disappeared. Just like he has done intermittently his entire career. Corey Mays, while being terrible in coverage, had 4 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss, in way, way less playing time than Johnson.
I am a supporter of Johnson. I want him to get the starting job because he is the teams most athletically gifted linebacker. But if he keeps playing like he is, how can Todd Haley justify using him more than as just a situational player?
Maybe the best combination for the Chiefs is Demorrio Williams and Jovan Belcher. Maybe it is Vrabel and Belcher or Williams and Vrabel with Studebaker at OLB. One thing is for sure. All of those players have a shot and they know it. They know because Todd Haley backs up what he says.
I am not a Haley homer. I think he made a lot of mistakes last year. I believe he should have given Johnson more playing time last year to see how he responded. I think he was a fool to continue running LJ and then running Kolby Smith when Jamaal Charles was clearly the best back on the team.
But what I am trying to say here is that a lot of what Haley is doing right now makes sense to me. He has said over and over again not to put too much stock in the depth chart just yet and what do we do?
Put too much stock in the depth chart.
I think a lot of what Haley is doing right now is showing his players respect. The Chiefs have been doing a lot this preseason to give their players a break. Their practices have been moved inside on really hot days. Their afternoon practice time was pushed back later in the day to give them cooler weather to work in. Today, the players had their morning practice canceled and are at the movies enjoying one another’s company.
They are team-building. Leadership needs to come from the coaches but it also needs to come from the veteran players. It appears to me that Haley and the staffs are trying to demonstrate to the players that what they have been saying to them is the truth. That it doesn’t matter how a player got to KC because the players that give the team the best chance to win will play. That everyone has a chance to win their roster spot and that nothing is going to be handed to anyone.
And most of all, that they are respected.