Every team has their way of trying to deal with the fallout from the NFL lockout and the Kansas City Chiefs are no different. Head coach Todd Haley was slow to introduce his players to contact, instead concentrating more on walk throughs in shorts than full padded practices full of hitting.
Haley also instituted a buddy system, according to Don Banks, that pairs a rookie with a veteran to help the kids adjust better to camp life. Not only will the rookie and their veteran “buddy” spend camp in lockers next to eache other, but also share a room and sit together on the team plan.
There are definitely some interesting pairings going on. Instead of putting two players together at the same position, the Chiefs are mixing things up. Veteran NT Kelly Gregg is paired with rookie offensive lineman Rodney Hudson, second-year safety Eric Berry with first-round draft pick wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, safety Kendrick Lewis with rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi and tight end Leonard Pope with third-round draft pick linebacker Justin Houston.
Houston was the last of the Chiefs draft picks to sign and get into camp and showed quickly that his conditioning was well behind the rest of the players on the team. In each of his five years in the NFL, Pope has played in at least 13 games and has been a model citizen off the field, making him the perfect player to try and keep Houston on the right track.
If the Chiefs are going to defend their division championship, they will need the 2011 rookie class to deliver immediate results due to a lack of activity in free agency. Each rookie having a veteran assigned to them, in addition to the organic mentoring that goes on every year, should help give these kids as they get their feet wet in the preseason and beyond.