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Archive for Saturday, May 4, 2002

Gonzalez skips Chiefs’ mini-camp

Wide receiver Minnis expected to miss eight weeks after breaking bone in foot

May 4, 2002

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— If All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez had been there, he'd have seen Kansas City's newest wide receiver put on quite a show during Friday's first day of mini-camp.

Johnnie Morton made three over-the-shoulder catches on fly patterns and consistently beat every cornerback the defense put on him. More than once after a play, head coach Dick Vermeil personally ran over to say nice catch.

"It was fun getting acquainted with the guys, running the plays," said Morton.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Marvin "Snoop" Minnis broke a bone in his foot, and is expected to be out about eight weeks.

Signed as a free agent out of Detroit, where he caught 77 balls for 1,154 yards and four touchdowns last year, Morton was made the Chiefs' No. 1 wideout the minute he set foot on the practice field.

And that's just fine with him.

"That's the way I've always approached it since my rookie year," he said. "I don't count myself as a number, like one, two or three. I always try to play as a No. 1 and have my group play as a No. 1."

Gonzalez, embroiled in a contract dispute, did not surprise anyone when he chose to stay home in California.

"I love Tony Gonzalez and I respect him," said Vermeil. "But I did not even give it a thought. That's all part of the business and I respect his right to do what he's doing."

The versatile Gonzalez, who is sometimes split wide, believes he should be paid along the lines of a wide receiver. The Chiefs insist he is a tight end and will be paid as one. So he refused to sign last year and the club slapped him with the franchise tag, forcing him to play for the Chiefs or sit out the coming season.

Vermeil addressed Gonzalez's situation with the squad on Thursday night.

"I said this is not about Tony Gonzalez being absent. It's about the Kansas City Chiefs getting ready to play football," he said. "He'll be here in the fall. It'll get done."

Vermeil said Gonzalez's absence "hurts Tony more than it hurts us."

"We're going on," he said. "You treat it like he's got a pulled hamstring. In a way, it helps get the other kids further along. I said to the squad 'I'm sorry he's not here so all you young kids can see a true superstar work like he works.' He's a great tempo-setter on the practice field. He is a high-energy, hardworking player. And he happens to be a great player."

Also absent from drills is left tackle Willie Roaf, the former New Orleans All-Pro who is still rehabbing after knee surgery.

Minnis broke the bone in his foot during a non-contact drill. He is scheduled to undergo surgery Monday, and team doctors expect him to recover in time for the opening of training camp on July 26.

All in all, Vermeil was pleased with what he saw. But there were a couple of tubby exceptions.

"There are a couple of guys who've got too big a belly on them," he said. "I don't like big-bellied football players. It shows a lack of self-discipline and I've been on them about it. Both of them are real good football players, and both of them ought to be a lot better than they are."

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