Around The Web: Tight Competition, Injury Free, Pollard’s Helping Hands

Tony Gonzalez is long gone, but left in his wake were several players vying for his starting spot.  As Kent Babb notes, the competition for that spot is fiercer than coach Todd Haley might have predicted.

The starting job was supposed to be Brad Cottam’s job to take.  Now, it could go to any of the Chiefs five remaining tight ends and Haley wouldn’t have it any other way.Cottam5

“We went from being thin to having a nice competition.  We’ve got some guys who have some potential and look like they’re pretty hungry and are pretty serious about making a fight for it. He’s (Cottam) one of them.  There are some pretty competitiveve guys there who realize there is a window of opportunity and a legitimate shot.”

Among those are rookies Jake O’Connell, whom the Chiefs drafted this year in the seventh round, and undrafted free agent Tom Crabtree.  Haley singled out both players this week as being in the mix.  They should be used to pushing each other and competing for playing time and catches: They were teammates at Miami of Ohio, where O’Connell had 46 career catches and Crabtree 40.

Neither possesses Cottam’s 6-foot-7 frame, but both enter the NFL with more experience as a receiving tight end than Cottam, who was drafted last year in the third round with blocking in mind.  Cottam said this week that he has spent long hours working on catching passes, an effort that has had its encouraging and disappointing moments, but the Chiefs aren’t in a position to gamble with any position.  With an unproven group of wide receivers and a cluster of young tight ends — 29-year-old Sean Ryan is the only one older than 26 — quarterback Matt Cassel’s options aren’t yet as dependable as the Chiefs would like.

Haley acknowledged that Cottam has the experience edge in the Chiefs’ offense as offseason practice winds down and concludes next week, but that won’t guarantee him the starting job.  Haley said Cottam’s size occasionally works against him, causing several stumbles during last weekend’s mini-camp, and Haley is waiting for one of the Chiefs’ five tight ends to shorten the gap between a star such as Gonzalez and the man who will at least line up in Gonzalez’s old starting spot.

The “every job is an open competition” line is hard to believe for a lot of players (Cassel, Bowe, Flowers, etc.) but it would be naive for anyone to think the job is still Cottam’s to lose.  Once Gonzalez was traded I definitely thought Cottam would step right in and be given the job, but now that Haley and Scott Pioli have seen the first round of practices the job will go to whoever gets the best jump out of the blocks during training camp.

With OTAs coming to an end, the Chiefs so far have remained injury free.  And as Bob Gretz reports, outside of the obvious reasons for wanting to avoid injuries, players also want to avoid the work that comes with being on the rehab field.

Yesterday, Glenn Dorsey was able to work with the full squad during practice for the first time since workouts started.  No longer was he exiled to the rehab field and he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m so glad to be off that field and back in practice.  I’m telling you, there’s nobody that wants to be on that (rehab) field.  Nobody.”

The Chiefs are taking on the attitude about injuries that stems from the Bill Parcells School of Coaching.  To paraphrase the Big Tuna’s thoughts on injured players is this: he doesn’t believe in them.  If there’s not a bone sticking out, or evidence of a ligament being torn in half, then it’s not an injury.

On Thursday, QB Brodie Croyle, RB Kolby Smith and DT Ron Edwards were not the only players who had physical problems on the field.  They were the ones that had to rehab with the strength and conditioning coaches.  There were players in the practice who probably in another year or situation would have been watching and not taking part.  DT Tank Tyler is bothered by a sore knee.  He spent a few days on the rehab field, but hasn’t been back.  Nobody wants any part of that field and that’s just fine by Haley.

“It doesn’t look like a lot of fun, which is the idea.  (Dorsey) He has been working really hard over there and he has been chomping at the bit to get into the action.  Quite frankly, that is the way we like it. We would like it to be a little more fun to practice than to be on the rehab field.”

Those players forced to rehab generally start out on stationary bikes.  But they aren’t just cruising through the pedals, reading a magazine or watching soap operas.  Coaches Cedric Smith and Brent Salazar stand there with a stop watch, timing their work and effort.  After that, they may push a weighted sled contraption for awhile, or pick up a barbell or hand weights and carry them the length of a football field, and then back.  There can be sprints and longer runs around the field.  Turk McBride spent a few early practices on the rehab team and doesn’t want to go back.

“It’s miserable over there.  You work harder than you do in practice, but you aren’t in practice.  You don’t get anything football out of it.  It’s necessary, but you don’t want any part of that bike patrol.”

Ah, another welcome change from the way Herm Edwards ran things.  I can remember last year’s training camp and seeing “injured” players sitting on a bike just casually pedaling along with one hand on the handle bar and the other on a bottle of water.  I promise you we will not see that image once up in River Falls.  Also, it’s great to see Dorsey back on the field and running with the first team.  A lot has been made of his switch to DE and he is going to need all the reps he can get if he’s going to be ready to go come kickoff in Baltimore.

We’ve talked about it before, but you can never focus too much on just how much charity work the Kansas City Chiefs organization performs every single year.  The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, IN has the story of how Bernard Pollard Pollard1came to add his name to the list of Chiefs players with their own charity.

Pollard wanted to start a charity but figured people would assume he was just another athlete starting a charity to get notoriety, so he held off.  But with the struggles facing some families around his hometown of Fort Wayne, the Kansas City Chiefs starting defensive back felt he couldn’t wait any longer.  So Pollard and his wife, Meghan, developed Pollard’s Helping Hands.

One of the first tasks is to help at home, feeding families and kids who need it most.  Pollard is doing everything he can to make his charity a success.

“Our main thing is helping the community and being able to do things in Fort Wayne and trying to take that work load off them.  Everybody understands what the economy is right now. It’s just about helping and just remembering to do things for people.  We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to make ends meet, as far as playing football and doing the things we’ve done in life. I feel like that’s my calling, and that’s what I need to do. So we’re going to get it done.”

A monetary donation to the charity will go toward supplying the families of Meadowbrook Elementary with a voucher that can be used at the Community Harvest Food Bank during the 10 weeks of summer break, starting Saturday and ending Aug. 15.  Meghan Pollard said they’re hoping to provide at least 50 families with a voucher to receive 50 pounds of food a week.  The estimated cost is about $475 a week.

You can mail donations to Pollard’s Helping Hands, P.O. Box 23701, Shawnee Mission, KS, 66283, or donate online at www.gkccf.org.  For more information you can email pollardshelpinghands@hotmail.com.

It never amazes me the amount of charities that are aligned with the Kansas City Chiefs franchise and their players.  It is a shame that Pollard — or any player — would hold off on starting a charity because of negative public perceptions.  Anyone that would rail on a player for charity work definitely needs a new hobby.  Great work, Bernard…  Keep it up.

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