Chiefs still counting on LB Bell


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Jan 22, 2006
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Published Saturday, May 20, 2006

Chiefs still counting on LB Bell

By Rick Dean
The Capital-Journal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- His first season in Kansas City was generally considered to be a disappointment.

The high expectations that accompanied his arrival as one of three big-name free agents acquired to turn around the sorry Chiefs defense contributed greatly to that perception. So did a paltry 48 tackles in 16 games.

When Kansas City's oft-maligned defense failed to make significant improvement in 2005, many people not familiar with the salary-cap implications of releasing newly signed players thought linebacker Kendrell Bell might not be back with the Chiefs in 2006.

Gunther Cunningham, however, had other ideas.

The Chiefs defensive coordinator instead began envisioning ways to put Bell in position to once again be the disruptive force he once was in Pittsburgh, where he recorded 18 sacks in his first three NFL seasons.

Cunningham, in short, wants to make Kendrell Bell a more frequent pass rusher, maybe even from a hand-on-the-ground defensive end position in nickel situations.

"The prototype of what I'm looking for in that spot is Kendrell Bell,'' Cunningham has said. "That's what he does really well. He's very explosive. He says he's healthy enough to do it, and that really excites me. Because if he's healthy, that really puts a lot more speed on our front line to get to the quarterback.''

Indeed, the idea of Chiefs sack leader Jared Allen rushing from one end, top draft pick Tamba Hali manning an inside spot in the nickel and Bell rushing from the other end has considerable appeal.

But it is not without its drawbacks, either.

Topping the concerns is the on-going issue of Kendrell Bell's health. His recent injury history -- an ankle problem limited him to 12 games in 2002, groin and shoulder problems restricted him to a mere three games in 2004 -- makes some oft-injured members of the Royals look Ironmen.

After insisting that Bell was fully recovered from his injuries when they signed him last spring, the Chiefs babied Bell in their training camp, restricting all contact work until the final weeks. And nobody ever did say much about an on-going groin injury that bothered Bell much of the season.

"Coming off the groin injury, I spent the whole season try's ying to work through that and probably didn't get my legs until the 11th game of the year,'' Bell said. "Eventually I was able to run like I can, but it was kind of frustrating.

"But that was last year. Ask me about something else.''

OK. Let's talk about the Cover Two defense new coach Herm Edwards plans to employ heavily. It's a defense in which the two safeties patrol deep halves of the field while the linebackers make drops into the areas in front of them. In doing so, Bell explained, a linebacker generally keeps a play in front of him and can react better.

"The Cover Two allows the outside linebackers to run much faster to the ball,'' Bell said. "There were times last year when we were on an island with receivers, and that puts you on your heels. That's not what you want as a linebacker.

"But things are more simplified this year and we should be able to be more aggressive. We're keep everything in front of us, and we don't line up so wide that we're away from the rest of the defense like we were a year ago.''

CHIEFS NOTES -- Today's 10:45 a.m. Chiefs workout, the third of four planned for the three-day mini-camp that opened Friday, is open to the public at Arrowhead Stadium. Admission and parking is free, though a ticket -- available at Kansas City-area Arby's restaurants -- is required.

The Chiefs on Friday formally announced the signing of four restricted free agents. Kicker Lawrence Tynes, tackle Jordan Black, nickel back Bennie Sapp and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson all signed one-year deals. Black and Jordan can become unrestricted free agents next year.

Among veterans not working at Friday's first mini-camp workout were running back Priest Holmes, who was excused from attending while awaiting medical clearance to resume working after the head and neck injuries he incurred last year; wide receiver Dante Hall, who injured a hand during a team workout earlier this week; tackle Willie Roaf, who was excused for personal reasons; and defensive tackle Junior Siavii.
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