Heartland Health Practice Report - Saturday AM

Posted Jul 31, 2010

Players battled the heat, Shaun Smith handles the zero and much more...

There weren’t any weather delays in the first of two scheduled practices in St. Joseph. While the grounds dried out, fans turned out in record numbers once more as players took the field on Saturday morning.

Head Coach Todd Haley took his team through a practice regimen similar to Friday’s opener, though it wasn’t as lengthy. When the team came together, they worked on half-line drills, WR/DB releases, 9 on 7 inside run, 7 on 7 passing, and special situations.

Today’s situation of choice was the various ways to take a safety, based on the amount of time left on the clock.

Practice Inactives

G Brian Waters

DT/DE Dion Gales

Both Waters and Gales were held out of Friday’s debut in St. Joseph. The reason behind the inactive status of each is unclear, although Haley confirmed that Waters passed the club’s conditioning test on Thursday.

Back In Action

Veteran offensive lineman Ikechuku Ndukwe returned to practice on Saturday after being held out of Friday’s action. He appeared to go through all drills as a full participant.

Just where the Chiefs decide to use Ndukwe this summer could yield answers towards the Chiefs plans its reserve unit along the offensive line, in particular at the tackle position. Ndukwe is currently the only reserve tackle on the roster with considerable NFL experience. He started the first three games of 2009 at right tackle, but had primarily played guard during his NFL career. This spring, Ndukwe worked primarily with the guards, which is where he practiced on Saturday.

Players competing for time at tackel outside of last year’s starters, Branden Albert and Ryan O’Callaghan, are Barry Richardson, Colin Brown and Tyler Eastman. Look for more on the offensive line tomorrow on in Finding the 53 with Mitch Holthus.

Missing In Action

Chiefs safety Jarrad Page is now the only member of the organization yet to report to camp. Page, as most know, has yet to sign his sign his restricted free agent tender.

Berry Arrives; Apologizes

First-round pick Eric Berry arrived in St. Joseph yesterday and was on the field this morning for his first official practice of 2010, and yes, Berry was subject to passing Haley’s conditioning test before he could participate.

“That was pretty easy, so I guess I’m (in shape),” Berry said of the test.

Just as he ended spring drills, Berry worked with the first-team defense in his return. Although there is no formal depth chart, Berry took the place of Reshard Langford with the first unit. He paired up with veteran Jon McGraw.

“I was just so excited to get out here with my teammates,” Berry said. “Yesterday was the first practice that I missed in my whole life. I’m ready to get to work.”

Berry thought that his first day back went well, crediting the help of Chiefs veterans with preparing him for what will await him in his first NFL training camp. After a successful off-season of bonding and working out with his new teammates, Berry felt remorseful for his one-practice absence.

“I apologized to my teammates in the team meeting and told them that I was sorry for missing,” Berry said. “I told them that I’m here and that I’m ready to help this organization to get where it needs to be.”

It didn’t look like there were any hard feelings – players, coaches and fans included.

Chiefs Swap Receivers

Shortly before Saturday's morning practice, the Chiefs announced that they had parted ways with WR David Grimes and signed WR Verran Tucker. Grimes, who played for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, was signed to the team following an invitation to tryout at rookie mini-camp and had been a member of the team ever since. He missed a handful of practices in the middle of OTAs due to a hamstring injury.

Tucker, who played collegiately at Cal, put on the same #15 that Grimes wore on Friday and practiced with the team this morning. Though they share the same number, Grimes and Tucker look completely different in uniform. Tucker comes in at 6-1, 204, while Grimes goes at 5-9, 183. Tucker was cut by the Cowboys last week after signing with them as a rookie free agent earlier this year.

Fight For Fullback

Before training camp began, we highlighted the battle for the Chiefs fullback duties as one that Chiefs fans might find entertaining during their time in St. Joe. Thus far, most fans seem to be focusing on comparing Tim Castille with Mike Cox. Each player brings different assets to the offense and both were on the 53-man roster at the same time in 2009.

Thus far, Castille has opened with the first-team offense, but Cox has received plenty of reps as well. The two appear to be rotating based on which personnel package is being utilized. Rookie free agent Tervaris Johnson will also factor into the competition at fullback, receiving reserve reps in the first two practices of camp.

Dexter Cramps Up

Some fans gasped when rookie speedster Dexter McCluster appeared to have suffered an “injury” on camp’s second day. With morning temperatures already raising the barometer, McCluster only suffered a cramp. There will likely be plenty more cramps to come as players fight the St. Joe heat during two-a-days. Currently, the training staff has a full-time job in simply keeping the Gatorade flowing throughout practice.

First Camp Scrap

An unexpected player was involved in the first melee of training camp – OLB Andy Studebaker.

Actually, it was more scuffle and less melee; and it also appeared that Studebaker’s involvement was more about being in the wrong place at the wrong time as opposed to taking a corner for fight night.

Scraps are going to happen, especially in humid, full-padded practice sessions. The first occurrence this camp came during the club’s “Wildcat” period as RB Jamaal Charles took a carry off the right edge. In the process, a wave of defenders stayed home and flew to the line of scrimmage, tackling Charles to the ground. During the tackle, Charles was lifted off his feet and driven into the ground.

This type ending to a play didn’t sit well with Charles’ offensive mates.

Studebaker found himself at the bottom of the pile while the rush was on to get players peeled off of Charles. Studebaker was one of the final players left on the ground and had to force his way out of harms’ way. After practice, Studebaker was still confused as to how he got involved.

The skirmish was short-lived.  

Harping on the Details

We haven’t seen too many players punished for false starts and offside penalties with running, but that doesn’t mean we won’t. Haley reminded his centers and quarterbacks of last year’s common occurrence, following a handful of fumbled exchanges. The group never had to run, but LB Corey Mays was the beneficiary of a fumbled snap, taking the muff off one hop for a would-be TD.

Haley and each of the Chiefs coaches continue to preach the importance of doing the little things correctly. Proper techniques, alignment, mental errors and fumbled exchanges all fit into this category.

If there are more fumbled snaps this afternoon, we might see some group running to follow.

Play of the Day

There were a handful of good plays turned in by both sides of the football on Saturday morning, but this AM’s Play of the Day goes to an overall practice performance.

Competing for a key position on the Chiefs defense, veteran DT Shaun Smith was very impressive in the club’s 9 vs. 7, inside run period. At one point Smith received praise from both Haley and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel after successfully handling the zero technique to plug up multiple rush lanes.

“I’m just focusing on not letting the center up,” Smith said of his technique when lined up in the zero. “And we’re also working on reaching the guards and on fighting the double-team blocks.”

Playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense is no easy job. Smith and the rest of the nose tackles have been going hard against opposing centers and guards in one-on-one drills and inside run periods. These are must-watch drills if you’re coming to training camp.



The crowds continue to grow in St. Joseph. After a morning practice that produced a record number of fans, considerably more showed up for the Chiefs second showing of the day. Of the first three practices, Saturday’s afternoon tilt was mellower than the two which preceded it.

Haley had his team lose the lowers, opting for a shells practice in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. The team worked extensively on punt coverage and technique with its gunners. Catching the punts were Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Maurice Leggett, Quinten Lawrence, Jackie Bates and Rich Gunnell. Some of those returners went double duty and worked as gunners on the coverage units as well.

Practice Inactives

G Brian Waters

DT/DE Dion Gales

The same two players that were held out of this morning’s session missed the afternoon as well.

Hunts In Town

Members of the Hunt Family were on hand for both of Saturday’s practice sessions. Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt attended practice, as did Lamar Hunt, Jr. and his wife, Rita.

Clark Hunt made his practice stop between dedication ceremonies on Friday and Saturday. Back at The New Arrowhead, members of the Hunt Family were joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as the Chiefs held ceremonies to open The Founder’s Plaza.

The Founder’s Plaza is open to all Chiefs fans visiting The New Arrowhead and will forever serve as a reminder and tribute to sports pioneer Lamar Hunt. On Saturday, Hunt joined Missouri Senator Kit Bond and members of Missouri Western State University in ribbon cutting ceremonies to celebrate the arrival of Chiefs Training Camp in St. Joseph.  

Chiefs Go Nickel

Defensively, the Chiefs spent a lot of time working on nickel sets in the afternoon. Getting a heavy dose of first-team reps at nickel cornerback was second-round draft pick Javier Arenas. Just as the club did last season, linebackers Jovan Belcher and Derrick Johnson were paired together with the first nickel group and DE Wallace Gilberry was active with the first team as well.

Asamoah’s Settling Place

Rookie offensive lineman Jon Asamoah spent his first day of training camp trading off repetitions at right and left guard in the Chiefs reserve units. In both practice sessions on Saturday, however, Asamoah worked almost exclusively at right guard. On the first-team field goal unit, Asamoah was parked on the right side as well.

Defense Wins Spirited 3rd Down Period

The final team period of each practice almost always consists of some sort of competition. Whether the scenario calls for two-minute execution, goal line scenarios or third-down plays, this is typically the most spirited portion of practice. On Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs nickel defense was all over the field.

Of six pass attempts, the defense allowed one to be completed;it was a shallow cross to Dexter McCluster. Check out the production…

Matt Cassel (1st team)

3rd and 5 – Fast middle rush from Jovan Belcher hurries Cassel = incomplete pass

3rd and 12 – Cassel completes shallow cross to Dexter McCluster = short of first down

3rd and 3 – Cassel runs for first down off designed naked boot = 1st down

Brodie Croyle (2nd team)

*3rd and 10 – Croyle to Jerheme Urban on 35-yard fly to end zone = caught, but out of bounds

3rd and 3 – Croyle to Urban on slant = dropped, incomplete

3rd and 7 – Croyle to Terrance Copper on fly down right sideline = overthrown, incomplete

*There was some debate as to whether or not Urban came down out of bounds, but “Voice of the Chiefs” Mitch Holthus ruled the pass incomplete from his hilltop view some 70-yards away.

Tyler Palko (3rd team)

3rd and 9 – Palko pass intended for Quinten Lawrence broken up by Mike Richardson = incomplete

3rd and 2 – Kestahn Moore off right tackle for short gain = bring out the sticks

The Chiefs opened up the drill with its three rookie defensive backs playing on the first-team nickel – Javier Arenas, Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis.

Pop of the Day

The best contact of the afternoon came in blitz pickup when Kestahn Moore locked up a blitzing Demorrio Williams. Williams would later pick off a tipped Cassel pass on the first play of team period. The INT would have been a candidate for six points.

Just one practice on Sunday – 1:50 PM

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