Heartland Health Practice Report: 7/29/11

Posted Jul 29, 2011

61 players were present for the Chiefs first practice of 2011

ST. JOSEPH, MO – An unprecedented off-season led to the Chiefs opening training camp with just 61 players Friday afternoon. The field was void of all free agents as Kansas City held its first practice before the official start of NFL free agency.

Unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchise players were all restricted from reporting to camp prior to Friday’s workout. Roster numbers are sure to grow in the coming days, but the low turnout still made for an uncommon training camp sight.

“It felt light in (the team meeting) across the board,” Head Coach Todd Haley said earlier in the day. “It was a skeleton crew, but with what we’re planning to do with practices we have a chance to make it through a few days.”

With smaller numbers, the lack of a structured off-season program and rules prohibiting full-padded workouts until Sunday, Coach Haley is proceeding the opening days of camp with caution.

“This is a different situation than anybody has ever been through,” Haley said. “We’re just trying to get it right and there is going to be a little heavier emphasis on the lifting and conditioning aspect of this with our team right now, but with evaluations going on at all times. When we feel comfortable about adding football to it, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Much of Friday’s practice was conditioning based and focused on individual drills. Team periods were limited and involved no contact. Saturday’s session is scheduled to be similar.

“Our number one priority is evaluating the guys that are here and trying to get them to a similar level of readiness,” Haley said. “That’s going to take some time and that’s why signing and resigning our guys is a priority always, but maybe even a bigger priority for us in a situation like this. As those things play out you’ll see them and then we’ll be able to talk about them a little more thoroughly.”

Lilja Gets First Crack At Left Guard

Ryan Lilja started 15 games at right guard for the Chiefs in 2010. Today, he opened with the first-team offense at left guard.

The Chiefs have decisions to make along the interior offensive line after Thursday’s release of 11-year veteran Brian Waters. Haley indicated that both guard positions would be fluid for the time being while coaches explore various pairings.

“Once we get into some football you’ll start to see those guys shuffling around a little bit and we’ll see how it all plays out,” Haley said.

In limited team snaps, the Chiefs initial pairing featured Jon Asamoah playing opposite Lilja. Asamoah has the ability to play both guard positions, but the Chiefs focused his efforts on the right side throughout much of 2010. Lilja has previous experience on the left side from his time with the Colts.

We’ll have more on the Chiefs outlook at guard tomorrow morning on

Sheffield Is Back

Cameron Sheffield is healthy and ready to play football.

Nearly a year after suffering a freighting neck injury that claimed his 2010 season, Sheffield returned to the practice field Friday in St. Joseph. Sheffield was once feared to have been paralyzed following a helmet to helmet hit with Eagles RB Mike Bell last preseason as he lay on the Arrowhead turf motionless for more than 10 minutes.

After being immobilized and carted off the field, Sheffield was taken to a Kansas City area hospital where he regained full use of his extremities. Sheffield made significant progress in the days that followed and continued his rehabilitation with Chiefs trainers throughout the 2010 season.

Sheffield had turned heads at the Chiefs 2010 intra-squad night scrimmage and was receiving first-team looks in sub-packages before his injury. Today’s practice was void of contact, but it was still nice to see Sheffield back on the field.

Cassel Meets Zorn

Matt Cassel’s first on-field experience with new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn featured some unique drills. One of which included Cassel dropping back to pass left handed.

“It was fun to work with him because he always has us doing different drills and running around,” Cassel said. “I hadn’t done a lot of those drills before. He had me dropping back left handed which was interesting in itself. I definitely learned a little bit more about myself today and it was fun.”

Cassel wasn’t learning to throw left handed. Instead, the drill was about working on balance, footwork and drop technique.

Zorn coached Baltimore’s quarterbacks last season after serving a two-year stint in Washington as the Redskins’ head coach. He played 11 NFL seasons after entering the NFL as an undrafted quarterback out of Cal Poly in 1976 and threw for over 3,000 yards three-straight seasons (1978-80) with the Seahawks.

Zorn is the first quarterbacks coach Cassel has had that played the position professionally.

“Anytime somebody has played in the league and been behind center, they know what you go through every time you step on the field,” Cassel said. “That’s what you want. You want somebody to see it through your eyes and that’s what I think Jim Zorn does and you can see his success as both a coach and a player. That’s why I think he’s one of the good ones.”

Johnson Joins Moeaki On PUP List

RB Tervaris Johnson joined TE Tony Moeaki on the Physically-Unable-To-Perform list and did not participate in camp’s opening practice. Johnson spent all of 2010 on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury during a night practice in last year’s training camp. He originally signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (FL) in 2010.

Haley confirmed that Moeaki had joined PUP during his daily press conference. If you missed that news or want to know more about what PUP means, click here.

Lawrence Moves To Defense

Quinten Lawrence is making the move from offense to defense. After serving as a reserve wide receiver the last two seasons, Lawrence practiced with the defensive backs Friday and has changed his jersey number from #14 to #31.

A sixth-round pick out of McNeese State in 2009, Lawrence has bounced between the Chiefs active roster and practice squad throughout much of his career. He’s played in six games (one start) and owned one career catch for nine yards. Lawrence has also returned 16 kickoffs for 317 yards and logged two rushing attempts for 42 yards.

With 4.2-speed coming out of college, Lawrence is among the fastest players on the Chiefs roster. He received some play-time at defensive back in college, but was primarily a receiver and return man.

Baldwin Makes Chiefs Debut

Chiefs first-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin became the eighth of Kansas City’s nine draft picks to sign his rookie contract Friday morning. Baldwin has reported to camp and practiced in full Friday afternoon.

Baldwin and the rest of the Chiefs wide receiving core spent the majority of their day working on route running and technique without many competitive team periods scripted into practice. Regardless, it was clear Baldwin has already garnered a steady legion of followers in the stands.

Third-round pick Justin Houston remains the Chiefs lone unsigned draft pick and has not reported to camp.

Chiefs Re-Sign Nine; Confirm Breaston

The Chiefs re-signed nine in-house free agents Friday night and confirmed the signing of former Arizona WR Steve Breaston as well.

Coming back to Kansas City for 2011 is FB Mike Cox (RFA), S Reshard Langford (exclusive rights), RB Jackie Battle (UFA), WR Terrance Copper (UFA), CB Travis Daniels (UFA), S Jon McGraw (UFA), T Ryan O'Callaghan (UFA), TE Leonard Pope (UFA) and C Casey Wiegmann (UFA).

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