Sizing up Turley not easy


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Jan 22, 2006
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Sizing up Turley not easy
The Kansas City Star

RIVER FALLS, Wis. | So I show up at training camp Monday convinced that Kyle Turley will fail at left tackle because he’s not “athletic” enough.
Total stereotype, based solely on the complexion of Turley’s skin.

By lunch, I was embarrassed. Mike Solari, the Chiefs’ offensive-line guru/coordinator, laughed at me when I even raised the question of Turley’s athletic ability. Jared Allen, KC’s top defensive end, the man banging heads with Turley in camp, ribbed me for doubting a white player’s agility.

“He has great feet,” Allen told me after lunch.

I feel stupid. I try my best not to make those kinds of assumptions. But Monday morning, as I watched the Chiefs practice in 100-degree heat, I kept thinking everyone is concerned about the wrong thing when it comes to Turley replacing Willie Roaf.

Turley and the Chiefs seem to think he needs to pack on more weight.

Turley looks plenty big to me.

He’s tipping in around 280 pounds. When he was a star right tackle for the New Orleans Saints — before he suffered the back injury that sidelined him for the last two seasons — Turley weighed between 300 and 310 pounds.

Turley said, given his back problems, his ideal playing weight is 285-290. I disagree. And all Monday morning I kept thinking to myself: “If Kyle Turley is as athletic as Lomas Brown, the Chiefs won’t have a problem at left tackle as long as Turley’s back holds up.”

Brown was a 275-pound tackle for the Detroit Lions, and he specialized in opening holes for Barry Sanders and protecting the backside of whatever stiff the Lions lined up under center.

Left tackles don’t have to be big and overpowering. They have to be athletic, smart and confident. Right tackles need to plow straight ahead and bury defensive tackles and ends. Size and brute strength are extremely important attributes for right tackles.

The difference between right tackles and left tackles is like the difference between basketball power forwards and small forwards, Karl Malone and Dr. J.

Kansas City’s offense can function with Turley in Roaf’s spot. Will there be a drop-off in production at the position? No question. Roaf is a Hall of Famer who made a habit of swallowing Dwight Freeney. Roaf was the rare left tackle who was physical and big enough to excel as a right tackle, too.

But Turley, 30, can handle the job, if healthy. I feel so foolish doubting his athletic ability, even if it were just for a couple of hours. It seems silly in retrospect. Turley was trying to come back into the league as a tight end. He even thought about playing defensive end.

It’s impossible to play tight end or defensive end at the college level, let alone the NFL, without being a pretty good athlete.

Keeping his weight down would help Turley retain his athletic ability. And keeping his weight down is the best way for Turley to ensure that his back won’t suffer a relapse.

Now, if Turley’s back acts up, the Chiefs are in a world of hurt along their offensive line. Their next-best left tackle is probably Will Shields, the Hall of Fame right guard with his own back issues.

The Chiefs realize the situation is tenuous. Turley hasn’t played in two years. His back could begin troubling him at any time. I got nervous watching him stretch his back between drills.

“That was nothing,” he said. “My whole body feels beat up right now. We’re in training camp. It’s normal.”

And it’s probably normal that Chiefs players continue to telephone Willie Roaf in hopes of convincing him to return to the team. One player told me that just about all of the veterans have called Roaf this week.

“But he’s not answering his phone or returning calls,” the player said. “I left him a five-minute message just trying to tell him how Herm (Edwards) does things and how cool practices are.”

The Chiefs are praying that Roaf reconsiders. They might want to pray for Turley to keep his weight down, too.
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