Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City's Ryan Sims is not speaking to the media these days, but Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil is.
So let Vermeil give his report on the 315-pound defensive tackle - the sixth overall pick of the 2002 draft who so far has been an underachiever and a primary reason the Kansas City defense was so terrible.
"He's a better player. There's no question," Vermeil said Tuesday. "In fact, I've had opposing line coaches tell me that already in preseason games."
The Chiefs made headlines last offseason by their pursuit of new defensive players. But it also was understood around Arrowhead Stadium that a breakthrough season by Sims would be needed for any sustained improvement.
Almost all the newcomers are either linebackers or defensive backs. Defensive end Carlos Hall, a pass-rush specialist, was the lone addition to the line, and he has been slowed by an elbow injury.
So coaches crossed their fingers and looked to Sims. So far, the results are encouraging. Although Kansas City finished 0-4 in the preseason, he seemed to be doing better against both the run and pass.
"What Ryan has done, I think he's become better defined in his own mind what he wants to be," Vermeil said. "And for all the right reasons. He's demonstrated it on the practice field all through training camp. He has never worked like he's worked at any time in his college career or now. And it's starting to pay off now."
A star at North Carolina along with overall No. 26 pick Julius Peppers, Sims' career got off to a shaky start after the Chiefs moved up to the No. 6 spot to get him. Late to training camp because of a contract dispute, he finally reported overweight and out of shape and quickly was felled by an elbow injury.
His entire rookie campaign basically was a waste.
Now, in his fourth season, he's finally starting to come around. His affable and approachable personality even seems to have taken on a new edge. Hence, the polite refusal to discuss his progress with reporters.
"He's really in his third year, and it's in your third year that you start to blossom," Vermeil said.
"His hard work is shown in his consistency, his fundamental technique, his ability to dominate from time to time an offensive linemen. His ability to play within the discipline of the scheme. It's been demonstrated on a consistent basis. I'm very pleased with the progress he's made."
Overall, as Sunday's season opener against the New York Jets nears, the Chiefs are confident they have made considerable progress in their effort to upgrade a defense which never has finished higher than 29th the past three years.
Ten of 12 newcomers play defense. Cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Sammy Knight have improved a pass defense that last year was dead-last in the league.
Linebacker Kendrell Bell, although injured most of the preseason, seems to be ready. First-round pick Derrick Johnson will give the Chiefs more speed at outside linebacker than they've had since the heyday of the late Derrick Thomas.
They felt so confident of defensive improvement, the Chiefs traded linebacker Scott Fujita, their top tackler the past two seasons, to Dallas.
"Defensively, I feel we're better," Vermeil said. "We have more talent there. Patrick Surtain is a very, very positive addition. And what you can't appreciate about Patrick is what he brings to the practice field - the professionalism, the work ethic. Sammy Knight is the NFL's leading takeaway artist right now from the time he came into the league.
"Our defensive coaches ... have been very, very demanding. Very, very demanding. I think it's paid off. We're tougher on that side of the ball."