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Second-year pro Jalil Brown started the first three preseason games in place of Flowers, but is dealing with a groin injury that kept him out of the preseason finale. Veteran Jacques Reeves, who left football in 2010 to care for his sick mother, is in line to start Sunday’s game if Flowers and Brown remain sidelined.

“It goes hand-in-hand. The better pressure you can get on the quarterback, the better chance that the coverage can do a good job,” head coach Romeo Crennel said. “When you talk about pressure on the quarterback, that’s not sacks all the time.

“If you can get the guy off the spot and destroy the timing or knock a ball down. Those things like that, if you can just collapse the pocket and make the quarterback feel the pocket closing in, now, he gets the ball out maybe quicker than he wanted to. All those things impact the quarterback.”

Gonzalez, 36, left Kansas City in a trade he requested at the end of the 2008 season because at that stage of his career he didn’t want to endure another rebuilding program with a new administration and coaching staff. This will be his first regular-season game against the Chiefs since the trade for a second-round draft choice who turned out to be cornerback Javier Arenas.

“Everybody is asking me, ‘What’s it like in there? Is the stadium loud?’ ” Gonzalez said of his Atlanta teammates, who last played at Arrowhead in 2004. “And, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s going to be crazy, it’s opening day, they’ve got a pretty good football team … wait until you hear the national anthem, and wait until you hear, after every first down, the whole crowd shouting, ‘That’s a Chiefs’ first down!’ ”

The fifth-year pro, nicknamed “Matty Ice,” has proven that, while he might be a step below the NFL’s elite of Aaron Rodgers, Dree Brees and Tom Brady, he can definitely get the ball to Atlanta’s playmakers at wide receiver, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Last season, Ryan passed for 4,177 yards with 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while leading Atlanta to a 10-6 record and an NFC wild-card berth.

But what if Ryan gets hurt and is forced to leave Sunday’s season opener against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium? That’s where things could get murky.

While Chiefs fans will be sky high for the stars of a new season, I’m sure they will save some time to celebrate the return of tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The Chiefs traded Gonzalez — the best and most decorated tight end in NFL history — to the Atlanta Falcons in 2009 for a 2010 second-round pick. Chiefs used that pick on backup cornerback Javier Arenas. This will surely be Gonzalez’ last trip (and only trip as an opponent) to Kansas City. He has said he will likely retire after this season.

But this is far from the end of Gonzalez’ time in Kansas City. In addition to being one of the greatest Chiefs of all time, Gonzalez was also one of the city’s most beloved players.

I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Gonzalez signed a one-day contract so he can retire a Chief when his career is over. That’s the way it should end.

Kansas City and Atlanta begin the 2012 regular season with a 12 p.m. Sunday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs and Falcons meet for the first time since 2008 and in Kansas City for the first time since 2004.

The Chiefs are coming off a 1-3 preseason that began with a victory over Arizona and was followed by losses at St. Louis, vs. Seattle and at Green Bay. Atlanta also finished 1-3 in the preseason with losses vs. Baltimore and Cincinnati followed by a win at Miami and a loss at Jacksonville.

In 2012, the Chiefs return key starters S Eric Berry, QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles and TE Tony Moeaki, who all suffered season-ending injuries at various times during the 2011 season.

“Brian is a very intelligent and great football coach,” Nolan said. “He’s got a real good mind. He’s had very good mentors as far as football goes. He’s been on the offensive and defensive side of the football. Brian is one of the sharpest coaches that I’ve been around. I was very impressed with him at Miami.”

Daboll will try to unleash running backs Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis against the Falcons.

“I do think that players like to play for him because I think he tries to utilize all of the players’ strengths,” Nolan said. “They have a lot of explosive players. I guess his biggest problem is who is he going to give the ball too next because I’m sure has a lot of guys who want the ball.”

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