Anthony Toribio embraces first-team opportunity

Posted Jul 29, 2012

Nose tackle who spent 2011 season on Chiefs practice squad is seeing plenty of snaps in St. Joe

St. Joseph – Some of the friendly ridicule pointed at Anthony Toribio (98) was well-deserved. The 315-pound lineman was just a little too large for the undersized seat of his speed bike.

Toribio sped by the procession of Chiefs players shuffling across the street and back to Scanlon Hall undeterred. His nighttime ride was the perfect ending to a perfect first day of training camp.

“I don’t get what the big deal is,” Toribio, the only biker in a group of pedestrians, shouted back to a few of his teammates. “Why wouldn’t you want to ride a bike on a night like this?”

His teammates laughed. Toribio is a locker room favorite – and not just because of his spur-of-the-moment bike rides. He religiously follows Premier League soccer. He skateboarded to pass time during last year’s NFL lockout. And the eccentric second-year player will quote the lines from the newest Batman movie for any teammate that’ll listen.

Preseason prognosticators suggested that Toribio’s reign as the most-liked Chiefs player would end in St. Joseph. For a nose tackle, he’s undersized at just over six feet and just over 300 pounds. And he was banged up enough last preseason to alter his 2011 route to a place on the practice squad.

On and off the field, Toribio may have looked like the odd man out to everyone but Romeo Crennel. When the nose tackle could practice, Romeo Crennel liked what he saw. At first, it justified the Chiefs waiver-wire acquisition of Toribio from Green Bay two years ago.

Crennel saw something greater in Toribio.

“He had a pretty good camp the first couple preseason games,” Crennel said about Toribio. “He would have been competing for a starting position if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Now he’s rehabbed and now he’s back and that’s why he’s the starter.”

And an unlikely starter at that. First round picks are expected to be day one starters in the NFL, and the Chiefs invested a good one in Dontari Poe. But nothing will be handed to Poe just because he was the 11th overall pick. That’s not Crennel’s way of doing things.

The two are separated by technique. On one hand, Poe is just learning how to clog up both gaps a nose tackle is responsible for. On the other is Toribio, who had an extra season with line coach Anthony Pleasant to master the lessons he’s extending to Poe right now.

Those lessons will do wonders to help a 3-4 system flourish.  During one of Saturday’s team periods, Toribio took on both center Rodney Hudson guard and Ryan Lilja, which allowed middle linebacker Derrick Johnson to get a clean release on the direction of Jamaal Charles’ ensuing handoff.

Johnson met Charles on the sideline, and under in-game circumstances, he would’ve tackled the ball carrier for a minimal gain. But if Toribio couldn’t swallow up two offensive linemen, a blocker could’ve preoccupied Johnson.

Crennel, a self-described “old school coach,” needs a tackle like Turibio to do the dirty work it takes to make his defense flow smoothly.

 “Toribio is a technician, a really good technician, in playing that nose,” Crennel said. “That’s one of the things that I look for.”

That’s not to say Poe won’t ultimately win the starting job. At the same press conference he praised the technique of his starting nose tackle, Crennel joked at how fast former first-rounder Eric Berry seized the starting strong safety job.

He said it took Berry a week. Others say it took Berry a practice.  Poe is already working with the first-team unit in sub-package situations and received nothing but praise from his teammates and coaches since landing in Kansas City three months ago.

So Toribio counts every snap – and his late-night bike rides – as a blessing. It wasn’t that long ago that the Packers let him hit the waiver wire.

He’s the starting nose tackle in Kansas City now , and he’s proud of it.

“You can’t lie and say it’s not exciting to have an opportunity like this,” Toribio said. “But it’s still early, and I can only control what I can control. The great thing is I have an opportunity like this.”