Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Vermeil won’t live in fear

Kansas City Chiefs coach says he won’t let terrorists affect him

September 14, 2001

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— Dick Vermeil vows never to let terrorists cause him to be afraid to get on an airplane.

"I'm not going to let people like that make me be concerned with how I'm going to live the rest of my life," the Kansas City Chiefs coach said Thursday, his jaw tightening.

"I'm not going to do it."

Chiefs coaches and players were not surprised to learn the NFL had canceled all games this weekend in the wake of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The Chiefs, after losing to Oakland in their season opener, were going to be in Seattle on Sunday for a second straight AFC West clash.

"The only positive that comes out of a catastrophe like this is how it draws the American people together and how it makes you realize how precious life is, and the relationships you have," said Vermeil.

"If you can't better appreciate your opportunities today than you could on Monday, then you're not an American."

As shaken as anyone to hear that four commercial flights had been hijacked and crashed was wide receiver Chris Thomas, who lives in the Washington area.

"I've flown on American Flight 77 to California many times," said Thomas. "And that was one of the flights they hijacked. That really hit home. I'm just counting my blessings. At another time, I could have been on that plane."

No one questioned the league's decision.

"We had to make a statement. We had to say that with all that's going on in our country right now, playing football is not very important," said player representative Tony Richardson.

Richardson said he was certain the games would be canceled after talking to players from the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.

"They haven't practiced all week," he said. "And then there's the emotional toll all this has taken on them, happening in their own cities. They said there was no way they could play this week."

Safety concerns are to be on players' minds when they do get back to the games, Richardson said.

"There was no way you could go out and practice and not wonder about being in the middle of 70,000 or 80,000 people, with millions more watching on television.

"But the minute you're not focused, that's when you're going to get yourself hurt."

The Chiefs were talking about some way to raise money for the victims and their families.

"We need to come up with a plan and have all 31 teams involved," said Richardson. "As long as we're all on the same page. It's not about trying to make money on football. It's about trying to help our country in whatever way we can. We just want to help out."

Vermeil gave the team the rest of the week off. They'll get back to work on Monday and get set to host the New York Giants on Sept. 23.

Cornerback Eric Warfield did not expect to go to Seattle.

"When something this tragic happens, you have to take time out and show respect for the people who have lost their lives," he said. "I think it's best to take time off."

The Chiefs received the news as they all sat around televisions in their locker room.

"It was a weird reaction, actually," said defensive end Eric Hicks.

"Nobody ever has seen anything like this before. But everybody's going to do their best. They want us to be scared. They want to do things like make us wait in line for hours to get gas, make us afraid to get on an airplane. But everybody's going to come back Monday with a sense of purpose."

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