When a head coach is trying to find ways to use a rookie as much as possible, that’s usually a sign that you have a winner. So as Todd Haley manages Dexter McCluster’s time on the field, the only question has been if the diminutive playmaker can hold up at this level. As McCluster told Kent Babb, surviving a massive hit from Asante Samuel last weekend was a good first step.
“As I was catching the ball,” McCluster said this week, “I kind of had a gut feeling, like: ‘You know what, Dex? You’re hit. Hold onto the ball.’ And he hit me. He got a great lick on me, but if you’re able to get up, get up. That’s what I did, and everything is all right.
“A lot of people asked me, ‘Are you all right?’ I’m good, let’s roll. It was good to get that hit and kind of put it to rest. I’m not going to fold, no matter who hits me.”
Haley hasn’t said how the Chiefs will use McCluster most frequently, but the coach admitted that it’s good to have such a problem. McCluster said he’s just glad to have so many chances to make an impression and prove the first thing on his list of priorities.
“I’ve shown that I’m not the biggest guy out there,” he said, “but I can play with all my heart…. I want to make sure that when my number is called that, you know what, I’m going to make something happen.
“At the end of the night, they’re not going to see me as a small guy. They’re going to see me as maybe the quickest or the guy who’s going to give it all up for his teammates.”
The best thing to happen this preseason for McCluster is fellow rookie Javier Arenas’ success in the return game. If for some reason Arenas was unable to handle return duties, it would have meant more time required of McCluster on special teams.
Against the Eagles, McCluster showed that if needed he can be explosive returning kicks. Luckily for Charlie Weis and the rest of the coaches on the offensive side of the ball, Arenas will allow McCluster to focus his efforts during the season on his various positions on offense. Keeping special teams out of the equation could easily mean an extra 4-5 snaps per game with McCluster on the field.