Kansas City, Mo. The odds were long entering training camp that Dantrell Savage would make the Kansas City Chiefs' roster when the season opened. However, he has picked up a big fan in head coach Herm Edwards.
Savage rushed for 2,092 yards, averaging 6 yards a carry, in two years at Oklahoma State, but he was passed over in the NFL Draft. The Chiefs signed him out of a tryout camp, and he has opened some eyes in the first two preseason games.
"He's like a bowling ball with butcher knives on him," Edwards said after practice Monday. "It's hard to tackle the guy. He's not the biggest guy. He's probably not the fastest guy. That's probably why he wasn't drafted, but then you look what he accomplished at Oklahoma State.
"He doesn't go down on the first hit. If you think you can just hit him with your shoulders and don't wrap him up, you've got problems. He's going to make yards. He's got a very strong base. He's got powerful legs."
When Savage returned an Arizona kickoff 45 yards in the third quarter Saturday night to set up a Chiefs field goal, Edwards congratulated Savage on the sidelines.
"I said, 'That's what I like,"' Edwards said. "'You just keep running like that. You keep doing that."'
Savage said Edwards' words "meant a whole lot."
"It meant I'm a little bit closer to making this team," Savage said.
Savage is listed as a running back, but on the depth chart he's behind two-time Pro Bowl selection Larry Johnson; Kolby Smith, who rushed for 150 yards against Oakland last year after Johnson was injured; and Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick who rushed for 1,619 yards last year at Texas.
If Savage is to make the final roster, he will have to prove he is worthy of returning kickoff and punts. He did not return punts in Kansas City's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, but returned two for 18 yards in the 27-17 loss to the Cardinals.
"We challenged him two weeks ago," Edwards said. "I said, 'I want you to catch punts everyday after practice cause I want to get you in a game and see how you react.' To his credit before the game, they took the JUGS machine out there because he's never really caught balls under the lights. He wanted to be prepared to catch them in a game and he did a good job."
Will Edwards feel comfortable with Savage fielding punts during the regular season?
"That's what we're going to find out in the next two weeks," Edwards said. "That's a tough spot, catching punts. It looks easy, but that ball takes funny turns."
Savage knows that if he can handle those chores, it could be his ticket to the NFL.
"It's a whole lot different than catching a kickoff," he said. "I have to adapt if I want to make the team."
Savage, who is listed at 5-8 and 182 pounds, relishes his longshot role.
"I love it," he said. "Being an underdog, it motivates me. They also say I'm too small. It motivates me to play harder and dig down deep."