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Will Work for Food
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On August 4, 2009 @ 1:30 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled
I have no greater wish right now than to be in River Falls. Regulars to my column understand why I can’t be there – my body is still weak from the surgery, and every last penny I can spare is going to a hospital that intends to nickel and dime me (I promise not to launch into a rant about healthcare reform, but don’t think I’m not tempted). Thus, since my body is in Wichita, I must rely on others to be my eyes and ears. Primarily I am relying on fellow homeofthechiefs.com writer Barry Peraino, who is making himself known to players as well as some of our noteworthy colleagues in the journalism business. Barry is also producing and editing video podcasts for the site. I hope you all take the time to view them.
Today, WR Jeff Webb told reporters “The starting job is all I want. I’m not aiming any higher or any lower.” CB Donald Washington said “Ability’s not the issue. I’ve got to get better each day, fight each day, compete each day.” Meanwhile, DT Ron Edwards and DE Glenn Dorsey are on the sideline because both showed up to camp physically unfit to practice with the team. That’s the disparity that exists on every football team. Some men are hungry and some are full. One of those attitudes sits better with the new head coach. Two of these men have fallen on the wrong side of that line, and the wrong side of that line equates to life on the sideline.
Edwards and Dorsey probably both felt they were assured starting jobs. Edwards is the literal Big Man On Campus – at 315 pounds, he’s the Chiefs’ largest defender. Fellow DTs Tank Tyler and Derek Lokey weigh in at 306 and 287 respectively. With the change to a 3-4 defense, Edwards is the only one of the three with the requisite size to play the nose tackle position; 306 is smallish and 287 is untenable. To boot, Edwards is the only one of the three with experience at the position. The job was gift-wrapped for him. With Dorsey, his long arms and underutilized pass rush skills make him reasonably well suited as a weak side 3-gap DE (there has been some question as to whether or not he’s tall enough for the job – I addressed this in my February 20th article). As last year’s first round draft pick, his salary dictates that the starting job is his over rookie third rounder Alex Magee, aging journeyman Alfonso Boone, and a host of other roster longshots.
His present status as exercise bike seat-warmer shows that money isn’t always everything.
Now let’s shift focus to Webb and Washington. Both are fighting to be the number four or five guy at their respective positions. Both are fighting for roster spots with potential kick and punt returners, which considerably lessens their chances. Webb got a taste of the starter’s job in 2007 when injuries befell longtime great Eddie Kennison and rookie Dwayne Bowe. He flashed at times, but his inconsistency kept him buried behind the likes of Devard Darling, Will Franklin, and at one point even Samie Parker. Washington is a fourth round draft pick, but Kansas City’s last two fourth round picks, the aforementioned Franklin and Craphonso Thorpe, can tell you that being picked in the fourth doesn’t guarantee you a job. Washington carries baggage from his college days, including a suspension and the loss of his job as a starter. That will weigh heavily on the minds of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley. They might have drafted the guy, but they didn’t marry him.
Webb and Washington are pure athletes. Their measurables prove them to be superior to the competition, and both of them have demonstrated in their careers that sometimes that pure athleticism trumps preparation. Sometimes. Measurables don’t make the man. Case in point: Patriots WR Wes Welker is 5’9″ and runs a 4.7 second 40-yard dash. On paper, he shouldn’t have even played college ball. He should have stayed home in Oklahoma. Instead, he spends August through January in Massachussetts and February in Hawaii.
If Webb and Washington continue to rely on that pure athleticism, they’ll be unemployed. They know this. It keeps them hungry. Edwards and Dorsey need to acquire a little bit of that hunger. It’s not as easy though. There isn’t much of a question as to whether or not they’ll be on the 53 man roster at the beginning of the regular season. They will be. Haley doesn’t have enough options to count them out. Derek Lokey and Dion Gales aren’t good enough or even big enough.
Both are at risk of losing their starting jobs, however, and if they do, they’ll likely find that the team that could not replace them this offseason will pretty handily replace them in the next. At 30 years of age, that might not be a big deal to Edwards. He could rest on his laurels and retire fat and happy. Dorsey, on the other hand, cannot afford to operate on that principle. He need only discuss with former linemate Jason Babin what happens to first round picks that underachieve. If he falters this year, he will find himself either traded or resigned to the bench in 2010. Mired in mediocrity is not the way he’ll want to be remembered, and now is his best chance to ensure that doesn’t happen.
In the interim, the team is practicing entirely with their second string defensive line. Tyler is playing in place of Edwards, Magee in place of Dorsey, and Boone in place of first round holdout Tyson Jackson. Obviously it’s still very early in camp, but camp isn’t that long. In two weeks the stakes are real, and the players who are hungry for the stakes will begin to reap the rewards of hard work. The hungry will be fed, and the full will be starved in hopes that they’ll regain their appetite. It’s best if they get that way before then, however. In the end, not everybody gets a meal ticket.
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