An Inspiring Return

Posted Dec 19, 2010

Teammates feed off Matt Cassel's leadership in win over St. Louis

In this instance, the phrase “game-time decision” truly carried its meaning. Appendectomy-watch was in full stride during pre-game warm-ups as Matt Cassel lightly tossed the football on the side while Brodie Croyle and Tyler Palko handled routes on air with the wide receivers.

It’s an aspect of pre-game that Cassel normally takes part in, but the Chiefs starting quarterback looked anything other than an active quarterback as close as 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

“More of that was reserving myself for the game,” Cassel would later explain. “I didn’t know where my conditioning was because I wasn’t able to run throughout the course of the week. I was limited in what I could do in the gym and I wanted to make sure I conserved my energy.”

Based on Cassel’s workload, false reports began circling the Internet that Cassel would be declared inactive. When Cassel’s name wasn’t part of the Chiefs inactive list, those same false reports changed to speculation that Cassel wouldn’t start despite his active status.

In the end, Cassel was determined to return to action just 11 days separated from an emergency appendectomy procedure.

“Any chance that I had to play this weekend, I was going to do it unless there was some event to where the doctors told me that something really, really bad was going to happen,“ Cassel said.

Cassel went on to say that doctors cleared him to start Sunday morning after a week’s worth of monitoring his condition before, during and following practice sessions.

“All that I went by was feel,” Cassel said. “I felt good throughout the course of the week, I continued to get better each and every day and I felt good out there today.”

Upon his return, Cassel wasn’t superman. His final numbers were actually quite pedestrian, throwing for less than 200 yards with an INT and a TD, while his 68.8 quarterback rating ranked as his lowest since mid-September. Afterwards, Cassel called his performance far from extraordinary when fielding questions at the post-game podium.

What Cassel did do, however, was inspire. As a team captain, Cassel led by example in during a huge game and the impact of his return helped ignite both sides of the football.

“When you have your quarterback going to war for you like that it’s a great feeling,” S Kendrick Lewis said. “ He was into it and we just followed his lead and we embraced his return all together.”

The impact of Cassel’s return can nearly be summarized by one play.

Leading 7-6 in the second quarter and driving into Rams territory, Cassel showed the competitive spirit that his teammates have come to hold in high regard. As he dropped back to pass, Cassel was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled like a man hardly concerned about the vulnerability of taking a hit to his recently operated mid-section.

He could have thrown the ball away. It was only first down. Instead, Cassel took off.

Thirteen yards later, Cassel took a hit that gave his team a first down into the St. Louis Red Zone. The ensuing first-down celebration was symbolic of Cassel’s day and its meaning to his teammates.

“When he got that first down and got up and did the tomahawk, I was ready to get back on the field,” said DE Wallace Gilberry, who finished with a career-high 3.0 sacks. “We definitely feed off each other and he’s our emotional leader and he leads by example. You have to respect that and then you want to go out, get a three-and-out, and put those guys back on the field.”

Toughness has defined Matt Cassel throughout his tenure as the Chiefs starting quarterback, even during his most turbulent of times. The Chiefs would take a 14-6 advantage a few plays later and never look back.

What percentage of full strength Cassel was playing didn’t matter. The Chiefs had 100% of his leadership back on the field.

“It was exciting to have Matt back and it was a great thing that he did,” said TE Leonard Pope, who caught TD pass from Cassel. “He really didn’t have to play, but that shows you the type of character that he has. He came out and put on a great show for us today and led the team.”

Afterwards, Cassel said that all is well with his appendix (or lack thereof) coming out of Sunday’s game.

“As I was telling the guys before the game, we have to embrace this opportunity,” Cassel said. “We don’t have many more (games) left and we have to embrace this opportunity and have fun out there. We should all look at it as a blessing.”

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