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Chiefs’ rookies forced to play catch-up

August 4, 2011

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— Ricky Stanzi didn’t pick up his first NFL playbook until about a week ago. He’d better be good at digesting that thick binder full of information, though, because his first preseason game with the Kansas City Chiefs is little more than a week away.

The disorganized and disjointed offseason brought on by maddening labor strife has been particularly hard on first-year players trying to find their way in professional football. Without rookie minicamps and organized team activities, guys such as Stanzi have been forced to play catch-up throughout the first week of training camp.

“We knew it would be a little tough. We’re just adjusting to it,” said Stanzi, who was selected in the fifth round out of Iowa. “You just have to deal with the hand that you were given.”

Stanzi was able to work out with a few of his new teammates during an informal minicamp in Kansas City, but with no playbooks available, he couldn’t get started on the nuances of the Chiefs’ offense. Instead, he spent the rest of the summer working out on his own in Iowa City and back home in Ohio.

“There are some things that are the same, but overall it’s a different game,” Stanzi said after a walkthrough Wednesday morning. “There’s an adjustment period. It’s the same thing you go through coming from high school to college. There’s an adjustment period right now. I’m sure other rookies are feeling the same. You just have to kind of bear down and understand you’re going to make mistakes and try to get better every day.”

The 135th overall draft pick, Stanzi has been diligent about spending extra time after practice with passing-game guru Jim Zorn. Still, Stanzi acknowledged that most of their work has been on his mechanics. Learning the playbook is up to him — and he has plenty of ground to make up.

Wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs’ first-round pick, is on the same steep learning curve.

He’s expected to complement Dwayne Bowe and free-agent signing Steve Breaston, despite a somewhat inconsistent college career at Pittsburgh that caused his draft stock to drop. But with prototypical size (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) and freakish athleticism, he has the chance to excel in the NFL’s expanding aerial game.

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