Kansas City Chiefs Tyler Palko will play the biggest game of his professional football career on Monday night.
But don’t tell him that.
“You guys keep reminding me about all this stuff, I try not to think about it,” Palko told reporters who keep asking how he’ll battle the nerves of making his first NFL start on a national stage.
Palko likely doesn’t need any reminders about the importance of Monday’s game. After all, he plays on the same team as Matt Cassel, who went from an unknown backup to the starting QB of the New England Patriots in the blink of an eye. Cassel’s performance in relief of Brady earned him the starting gig in Kansas City. He knows what a strong performance against the Patriots could mean for his career.
At the same time, Palko knows what could happen should he fail. A year ago, Palko was the third string QB on Kansas City when Cassel had to sit out a week following an emergency appendectomy. Then backup QB Brodie Croyle got the starting nod on the road against the San Diego Chargers. Croyle played miserably, and the Chiefs were demolished. That performance turned out to be the nail in Croyle’s Kansas City coffin. The Chiefs did not renew Croyle’s contract after the season, and he still has not caught on with another team. His career could be over.
Despite facing extremely high stakes, Palko appears to be trying to tune out the noise in order to stay focused on the Patriots.
“When Monday night gets here, I’ll worry about Monday night,” said Palko. “Every day you have to put so much effort into the day, or the task at hand.”
The key to success on Monday night, according to Palko, will be execution.
“There’s no secret to playing quarterback. I guess, it being a short-winded answer is I have to execute. I have to execute our offense, that’s what the quarterback is supposed to do whether it’s Tom Brady, Matt Cassel or me. You have to execute and if you don’t execute on offense at the quarterback position then you’re not going to have a chance to win.”
While Palko knows there will likely be some butterflies on Monday night, he knows his teammates need him to remain calm so he can lead the offense.
“It’s something that’s going to be there and as a starting quarterback and as a professional, those guys in the locker room are looking at me to handle this like a professional as well. I hope nothing changes from everybody else and they have enough confidence in me, and I show them that we can roll and not have to change anything.”