Toughness...we got it


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Jan 22, 2006
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Toughness, We Got It
Aug 08, 2006, 5:21:18 AM by Eileen Weir - FAQ


That’s the word emerging as Coach Herm Edward’s credo. Toughness. He wanted Ty Law because Ty Law is tough – mentally, physically, unwaveringly tough. The mention of training camp evoked Edward’s patented gleam, a twinkling in his eye, an insuppressible grin glancing across his chiseled jaw. That’s where you see how tough guys are, Coach said. Lots of guys can look great in shorts, he told us. Put the pads on, turn up the heat in the Wisconsin farmland, feed them cafeteria food and make them sleep in dormitory beds. We’ll see how tough they are.

Barely moments into the camp that was to be the Chiefs proving ground, came the unexpected retirement of Willie Roaf, blindsiding fans just as we were ramping up our expectations. That’s tough. An all-pro, a future Hall of Famer, and a left tackle. NFL lore has it, left tackles are impossible to replace. There aren’t any. Well, none good enough. Left tackles are like pitchers – there’s no such thing as having enough and if you have one great one, you do everything to keep him. Remember that one extra game we were going to win on a Ty Law big play? We just gave it back.

In case he didn’t know it, fans and sports reporters alike informed Gunther Cunningham that the pressure was now on him to resurrect this team back to its former glory. No kidding. In my recollection, I can’t remember a season when the head coach didn’t put “improve on defense” at the top of the camp To-Do List. No apologies to Gun, though, for placing the bull’s eye on his back. He can carry the burden. He’s tough.

With the loss of our legend at LT, attentive concerned turned towards Trent Green. Will Green be able to take the hits that seem destined for him without an impenetrable human gulag shielding him? He overcame that stent in his leg last year. Didn’t miss a start. Not that big, not that mobile, but creative and smart. Handsome and courteous – nothing like a stereotypical tough guy — but relentless at heart.

L.J. Tough talker, we know that. Can he take the 30-plus carries per game pounding he laid on us all last season? Doubtful. No one’s that tough. Then again, no one had more to prove than our young RB languishing on the sidelines, feeling dismissed and disrespected. Keeping a mental edge, preparing to knock our socks off, and delivering, delivering, delivering when his number was called. Stepping over the line on to the field of play and leaving all that resentment on the bench takes an emotional maturity. We saw cracks in that maturity, leaking some long-suppressed indignation onto the newssheets and radio waves, but on the field, a man. The man.

We’ve got toughness. We have all forms – physical strength that manifests itself in incredible conditioning, mind over matter determination that wills a battered body to get out of bed in the morning, psychological stamina that instantly overpowers failure demonstrating the meaning of the now-clichéd “one play at a time”, sensate acumen that produces the kind of anticipation no coach can teach, making plays that no one ever did or ever could diagram. Football by intuition.

Of all the measures of toughness, the ability to overcome defeat or humiliation is the most cherished and the most innate. Resiliency. In the physical, mental and emotional spheres. In order to achieve success, professional athletes must have a profound sense of self-worth. The rest of us call it ego. Like it’s a bad thing.

While we assess that so-called toughness of which Coach Edwards is speaking, that intangible quality that separates the superlative from the merely great, it is that resiliency that is the delineator.

The subject of psychologists, sociologists, health care professionals, therapists, life coaches and others, resiliency is the new toughness. All people have a certain inborn ability to rebound from the normal stressors of everyday life and the capability to cope with life-altering personal and public disasters. Resiliency is our survival instinct that causes us to carry on when life becomes overwhelming or throws an unheralded curve ball.

As scientists and social observers delve into the idea of identifying levels of resiliency and explore methods to increase people’s ability to bounce back, the whole lexicon has undergone a transformation. Stress is so yesterday. The new, and more correct, term is strain.

Stress is defined as an internal and unavoidable force that exerts itself to a level to which our bodies, minds, or spirits can tolerate the intensity; strain occurs when those levels are pushed beyond the point of tolerance. In other words, stress is harmless, in fact, helpful in aiding us in discovering our physical, mental and emotional limits. Strain is what happens when those limits are exceeded, when we need to draw from our resiliency bank to get us back in the game.

A clear focus, organization, seeing life as full of opportunity and possibility, and looking ahead to a predetermined goal are cited as features of resiliency. Avoiding isolation and engaging in an activity you enjoy with a group of peers is said to help boost resiliency as well, allowing not only individuals but the entire group to experience increased feelings of accomplishment and success.

Sounds like camp.

For all those feeling the stress of change on the Chiefs front line, take heart. Teams are built to handle stress, thrive on stress, and respond to stress. Stress motivates. Coach Edwards will find the toughness, the resiliency in River Falls. All teams must. To be great – and that’s what we want to be, right? – teams rebound. They take hard hits and get up.

All of us outsiders should practice resiliency. Don’t go into the season in a funk. Focus. Think positively. Be proactive. But don’t strain yourself.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.
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