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Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chiefs rookies face baptism by fire

September 4, 2008

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— First, Branden Albert is moved from the guard position where he's comfortable to left tackle - where he's not.

Then, with a vital new position to learn, he hurts his foot just five days into training camp. So instead of spending the summer learning how to play left tackle in the NFL, Kansas City's first-round lineman could only stand around and try to stay in shape.

Then he finally gets clearance to practice this week, and guess who awaits him and a raft of other Chiefs rookies for their NFL debut on Sunday?

None other than five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour and all the rest of the talented, savvy AFC champion New England Patriots.

Is Albert ready?

"I'm going to have to be ready," the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder said Wednesday. "I've just got to keep working hard all through the week. Hopefully, I'll be ready on Sunday."

One of at least five Chiefs rookies who'll see plenty of action as huge underdogs in their first NFL game, Albert said he's not going to worry about all the practice time he missed and all the lessons he still hasn't learned.

"I don't know what I'd be like if I didn't miss camp. Like I said, I've just got to perform on Sunday," he said. "It was frustrating. Who knows? That time could have helped me. But I can't get time back. So I've got to move forward and just play football."

Albert played mostly guard during a three-year career at Virginia, but immediately after the Chiefs made him the 15th overall draftee last April, he learned he was moving to left tackle.

"It's not that much different," he said. "It's a lot more space to cover, faster players to defend, but it's not much different."

Also making his debut, and no doubt presenting a tempting target, will be cornerback Brandon Flowers. Another rookie cornerback, Brandon Carr, will probably be the nickel back. On the defensive line, the Chiefs will count on first-round rookie pick Glenn Dorsey to help make up the difference for the loss of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who was traded to Minnesota.

Altogether, the rebuilding Chiefs will probably take 11 rookies to New England.

"I don't think it's too big for any one of them," said head coach Herm Edwards. "We're going to take 11 rookies and they're going to play. I just think that's part of the process of building a football team. You don't worry about those things. You worry about the game plan, and is (Albert) going to be in shape to do a good job. If he's fatigued, you get him out. Right now, he's worked his way into a position to play."

The Chiefs ended last year on a nine-game losing streak and purged many veterans. Edwards has been insisting all week that he's not worried about his fuzzy-cheeked youngsters.

"Most of these kids played as (college) freshmen," he said. "They didn't redshirt, so they played. A lot of these kids, the high-round picks, played at big-time programs. They went in there right out of high school and played."

Edwards said the Chiefs have actually been planning for this weekend for years.

"You look at the last two (Chiefs) drafts previous to this one, it was basically the same scenario. That was intended. It wasn't by accident," Edwards said.

"When they were 17 and 18 years old, they walked on a college campus at a big university and they handled that pressure. So when they get to this level, it's really no different. First time playing? Guess what? You should be able to handle it."

Flowers admits to a few butterflies when he watched film of the high-powered wide receivers who'll baptize him into the NFL.

"It's a challenge I'm willing to take on," Flowers said. "Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Tom Brady. Top of the game right now. What a better way to start a season, see where I'm at. I think I'll be ready. I like to take on challenges."

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