Archive for Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Bye big-time benefit for Chiefs

Vermeil knows Kansas City needs time to heal, rest before playoffs begin

December 31, 2003


— Dick Vermeil does not fret about his team losing its rhythm when it takes off the first week of the postseason.

For one thing, his Kansas City Chiefs could be completely healthy for the first time in several weeks by the time they play host to a second-round game.

"We've already played 21 games, including the Hall of Fame game as a fifth preseason. I think the players appreciate and need the break," Vermeil said Tuesday.

The Chiefs plan a very light week, with the players doing only conditioning work until Saturday's full practice.

"I think the bye is an advantage," Vermeil said. "We've earned the right. It might also allow us to suit up our complete starting lineup for the first time in a number of weeks."

The Chiefs have been amazingly healthy while going 13-3 in the regular season, tying a team record for wins. The entire offensive line has started the same five men for 32 games in a row -- the longest streak by that position group in the NFL in 30 years. Offensive standouts such as running back Priest Holmes, tight end Tony Gonzalez and quarterback Trent Green have not missed a start, either.

But the defense has been weakened the past six weeks by the absence of linebacker Mike Maslowski, who's been nursing a knee injury. Cornerback Eric Warfield missed the regular-season finale because of a back injury.

"Maz has a pretty good chance of being back, and I think Warfield will be back," Vermeil said.

Monty Beisel, a backup linebacker and special teams ace, should also be ready by the time the Chiefs host a second-round AFC game.

Kansas City (13-3), the AFC's No. 2 seed, will play at noon Sunday, Jan. 11, against Indianapolis, Baltimore or Tennessee.The teams are reseeded after the first round, so No. 1-seeded New England (14-2), will meet Baltimore, Tennessee or Denver at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10.

The light work week is a departure from the way Vermeil has approached bye weeks with other playoff teams, but keeps with his handling of the 2003 Chiefs.

"I trust what they'll do with their spare time," he said. "I know they had a nice team party yesterday. The offensive line hosted. About 80 percent of the team went. I understand they did a great job and had a lot of fun. This is a very together team."

The shouting match between defensive linemen Ryan Sims and Eric Hicks following a humiliating loss to Minnesota in the Chiefs' last regular-season road game was not indicative of the team's chemistry, Vermeil said.

"When Eric Hicks got his sack in the fourth quarter (against Chicago last Sunday) the first guy who grabbed him before he could even get off the ground and hugged him around the helmet was Ryan Sims," Vermeil said. "This is a very, very much together team. Very few football teams get as far as we've gotten without being together."

As much as possible, the Chiefs will spend the week preparing for all three of their next possible opponents -- Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee.

"You break them all down," Vermeil said. "You study them. Every week we have guys who have breakdown responsibilities for preparation. Let's say you're in charge of blitzes, all their tendencies -- how they do them, those that will create the most problems for our schemes and formations. They'll do it for three teams."

By a vote of the players, Green was named the team's most valuable player while linebacker Kawika Mitchell and defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson shared the Mack Lee Hill Award as top rookie.

Green, a Pro Bowl selection, had his best season as a pro, completing 330 of 523 passes for 4,039 yards, with 24 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.

The Chiefs also said they had sold out all their remaining playoff tickets -- about 10,000 -- just 30 minutes after they went on sale.

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