Kansas City, Mo. Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton were supposed to be the downfield receiving threats for the Kansas City Chiefs.
At midseason, Kennison and Morton now seem almost like afterthoughts in the NFL's highest-scoring offense. They still get plenty of contact with opposing defensive backs but they're the ones initiating the hits now, as blockers for running back Priest Holmes.
"I don't want to say it's time for us to pick it up," Morton said Tuesday, a day after coach Dick Vermeil said the wide receivers needed to be more involved in Kansas City's offense. "But it's time for us to do our part, and make the most of our opportunities."
Morton, who had no catches in Sunday's 20-10 win over the Oakland Raiders, had 1,000-yard receiving yards in four of his last five years with Detroit before coming to Kansas City in the offseason. He hasn't been this marginalized in an offense since his rookie season in 1994, when he backed up Herman Moore and Brett Perriman.
But on Tuesday, after the first practice of Kansas City's bye week, Morton struck a careful balance between welcoming any additional balls thrown his way and accepting the less-than-glamorous job of springing Holmes.
"We'll be blocking for Priest, and he'll get past us because we opened it up, and that's fulfilling," Morton said. "From a receiver's standpoint, that's not the most exciting thing to do, but sometimes that's the way it is."
Holmes, the NFL's leading rusher and touchdown scorer with 857 yards and 15 TDs, also has become the Chiefs' go-to receiver, with more catches (51) than Kennison (22) and Morton (16) combined.
After eight weeks, Holmes has touched the ball on 48 percent 241 for 501 of Kansas City's rushing attempts and completed passes. Add in All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez's 33 catches, and the wide receivers' share of the passing pie shrinks even more.
"They want the ball more. It's no secret," Gonzalez said. "These guys are used to going out there and making big plays. But we're still going out there and putting up points. As long as Priest is playing at that MVP-type level, we can't complain."
Gonzalez, who has faced double coverage all season, has another reason for wanting to see Morton and Kennison get more opportunities."
"Once those guys get the ball, I won't get bracketed as much," he said.
It doesn't matter who's making catches, Kennison said, as long as the Chiefs continue their prolific (34.2 points per game) scoring pace.
"You have so many weapons on this club that you're not going to be able to catch nine or 10 balls a game," Kennison said. "There's no need for it. We've got Priest, Tony Gonzalez, (fullback) Tony Richardson guys all over the place."
Vermeil said Monday and repeated Tuesday that the Chiefs' coaching staff never set out to turn Morton and Kennison into Holmes' downfield escorts.
"It isn't always the fault of the offensive coordinator or the game plan," Vermeil said. "Sometimes things just don't work out. I would say 75 to 80 percent of Priest Holmes' catches come from trying to go downfield and not being able to and dumping the ball off to him.
Neither Vermeil nor the wide receivers, though, faulted quarterback Trent Green for making quick reads and getting the ball to Holmes in a hurry.
"He's such a great player, and he can do so much once he gets the ball in his hands, that it's a natural tendency to skip over a couple of reads and get the ball to Priest right away," Morton said. "Plus, he's the closest guy right there."