St. Joseph, Mo. — Todd Haley remembers watching Kelly Gregg stuff the Kansas City Chiefs’ vaunted rush attack. He has vivid memories of punishing fullback Le’Ron McClain clearing the way for Ray Rice.
So when both players became available during free agency, the Kansas City head coach was on board with signing them. And now, just a few short months after helping the Baltimore Ravens eliminate the Chiefs from the playoffs, the veteran duo is being counted on to help them get back.
“Really, I’m just coming in and doing anything I can to help the team win,” said McClain, a two-time Pro Bowl fullback. “If I have to block, I’m going to do that. If I need to run, I’ll do that. ... It’s not about me, it’s about the Chiefs.”
That’s precisely the attitude Haley expects.
McClain earned a bit of a diva reputation in Baltimore, where he once ran for more than 900 yards but had been relegated almost exclusively to blocking duty the past couple years. That led to him openly campaigning to run the football, and when McClain decided to pursue other options, the Ravens signed a replacement.
The former Alabama star eventually wound up in Kansas City, where McClain will be doing the same kind of work, only this time for the shifty backfield of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.
“He’s a big, physical fullback that’s obviously in the past shown really good run ability in the year he had the chance to carry the ball,” Haley said. “But we’re very clear: He’s coming in to be our fullback first and foremost.”
McClain said that’s fine with him.
“We’re here to win, man, we’re here to win. If that’s getting Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles over a thousand yards apiece, that’s what I’m here to do,” said McClain, who will get a chance to see the Ravens when they play the Chiefs in a preseason game Aug. 19 at Baltimore.
Haley offered similar sentiments for the 34-year-old Gregg, a grizzled 12-year veteran who the Chiefs hope still has something left. Defensive tackle was another of the “must” improve areas and, although there were more high-profile options available, the Chiefs decided to bring in another player with a winning pedigree.
“Kelly Gregg is one of those guys, I’ve talked about them, probably coming out the odds were stacked against him right out of the gate — not prototypical size and speed and those things,” Haley said. “He didn’t listen to any of it.
“As an offensive coach and offensive coordinator, he’s been a major pain to deal with,” Haley added.
The Chiefs lost last starting nose tackle Ron Edwards to Carolina and backup Shaun Smith to Tennessee, so they’re gambling that Gregg can plug up the middle for a defense that struggled to stop the run last year.