Edwards takes charge at camp

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Edwards takes charge at camp
Chiefs head coach sets the tempo for his team on a hot first day of work in River Falls.
By ELIZABETH MERRILL
The Kansas City Star

RIVER FALLS, Wis - . | With his ballcap turned backward, coach Herm Edwards jumped in the middle of a tight-end drill Friday afternoon and started firing passes. The heat index hovered around 105 degrees. Edwards was wearing a sweatshirt.

It seemed appropriate for the first day of Chiefs training camp. Nobody appeared quite comfortable.

On a day when Hall of Fame candidate Willie Roaf announced his retirement, and new acquisition Ty Law was off tending to personal matters, the giddy buzz that filled Kansas City last week was replaced by static and questions.

Who will take over at left tackle? When will Law, a five-time Pro Bowl corner, get here?

Does Edwards own any short-sleeved shirts?

“We didn’t have anyone passing out,” defensive end Carlos Hall said. “So that was good.”

The Chiefs, coming off a 10-6 season, will soon find out whether radical change is good. A year ago, offensive-minded Dick Vermeil was coach, Priest Holmes was the featured running back, and the biggest sound emanating from the north woods was defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham summoning his much-maligned defense to “SHOW UP.”

Now Edwards is here, the focus is on defense, and Cunningham is relatively quiet. The players say it’s because they know what he wants.

Larry Johnson is quiet, too. He’s the No. 1 running back, he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season, and on Friday, he looked stronger and faster and created oohs and aahs from an audience that is obviously ready for the defensive fortunes to turn.

At one point during the nearly two-hour workout, a fan shouted, “Come on D, kick their butts!”

“I thought he looked very good,” Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson said of Johnson, who finished last season with nine straight 100-yard games. “He’s had a terrific offseason.”

Edwards called the first workout “sluggish,” but that was to be expected with the heat and the one-month layoff. Holmes wasn’t there — he was officially placed on the physically unable to perform list Friday — but Chiefs fans who made the 460-mile trek could take solace that other big-name veterans who have recently been considered iffy were there.

Wide receiver Eddie Kennison, who earlier in the week said he wanted a new contract and may eventually hold out, practiced and outran former Pro Bowlers Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight for a reception of roughly 40 yards. Guard Will Shields, who last summer heavily contemplated retirement, participated in the entire workout.

Shields, who’s been to 11 Pro Bowls, will undoubtedly be an anchor for an offense that has led the NFL for two straight years — an offense that will show signs of change in the next three weeks under Edwards.

He didn’t want to talk about that Friday, with the sun beating down and his meticulously-planned camp schedule just starting. Peterson said he wasn’t surprised the first day was well-organized and run at a military pace.

Two of Edwards’ favorite practice phrases are “Play fast,” and “Get the job done.”

Edwards didn’t address team goals Friday morning — he was planning to do that later in the evening — but Peterson talked to the team about why he hired Edwards, a former NFL cornerback who went from an undrafted rookie to a Super Bowl starter.

“I think they respect what he has to say because he’s been there,” Peterson said. “He’s been one of them. Like I told our team this morning, ‘There were a lot of reasons for selecting Herm Edwards as the next coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. But one of them is he used to sit right here where you guys used to sit.’ ”

Edwards said he doesn’t want his players to feel comfortable. He said camp is supposed to be hard, and jobs are supposed to be earned. Today is expected to be one of the hottest days in nearly a decade. Law may not be here, and Roaf’s replacement won’t decided, but one thing seems certain: Edwards will have two practices.

“He wants to set a tempo,” fullback Ronnie Cruz said, “and he wants the players to realize that when we step on this field, no matter who you are, you put your hard hat on and come to work.”

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/15149792.htm


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