Heartland Health Practice Report: USO On Wheels

Posted Aug 15, 2011

Whiteman Air Force Base pays training camp a visit, Jared Gaither gives healthy approval and Haley revs up the tempo

ST. JOSEPH, MO – Todd Haley unveiled more than a dozen guest coaches during Monday afternoon’s full-padded practice at Spratt Stadium. Military personnel from Whiteman Air Force Base were in attendance and invited onto the field as part of Peter King’s “USO On Wheels” tour of NFL training camps.

But Haley didn’t stop at simply giving the troops sideline access. He actually brought them between the lines to help conduct drills.

“We didn’t expect any of this,” said staff sergeant Jason Williams, a long-time Chiefs fan and native of Manhattan, Kansas said afterwards. “We thought that we were going to be up in the stands. This was a nice surprise and we loved it.”

Representatives from the joint-service base helped conduct individual drills, holding blocking pads and riding on the seven-man blocking sled. A few even got in on the physical action, getting blasted by running backs and tight ends while using handheld pads to create a running gauntlet.

Both the players and the troops seemed to love every minute of it.

“One of our guys even got beat up a little bit going up against Thomas Jones in the blocking drill,” Williams said. “It was a great time and we all had a blast.”

Haley concluded practice by inviting all of the troops back onto the field to break down the post-practice huddle with the team at the 50-yard line. Players then signed autographs and invited the troops to the team cafeteria for dinner.

“Everything that they do for all of us means a lot to everyone in this building, I know that,” Haley said.

Gaither Declares Himself 100% Healthy, Flexible

In his second practice with the Chiefs, Jared Gaither continued to work with the second-team offense at left tackle. He’s been eased into camp thus far, signing late last week and having missed all of 2010 while recovering from a back injury.

Thus far, however, Gaither has been a full participant in each practice and shown no lingering effects from the injury that cost him last season in its entirety. No declaration has been made regarding his availability Friday night in Baltimore.

“I’m 100%,” Gaither said. “The Chiefs gave me a good opportunity and I feel 100%. I’m here to work and get better every day.”

Gaither said he’s excited to re-unite with former Ravens teammates Kelly Gregg and Le’Ron McClain, but has been relying on long-time friend Branden Albert for an orientation of the Chiefs offense.

“Right now I’ve been leaning on Branden Albert rather than the two guys I already know,” said Gaither. “He’s been here and done a great job here. He’s been teaching me a lot.”

Albert and Gaither first became friends while attending Hargrave Military Acadamy in Chatham, Virginia. Neither has played any position other than left tackle at the NFL level, but Gaither is open to playing on the right edge if requested.

“I will play anything that the Chiefs ask me to play,” Gaither said. “They brought me in here and I’m ready to work.”

Earlier in the day, Haley warned not to pigeon-hole Gaither as a left tackle.

“Branden’s our left tackle,” Haley said. “He’s earned that right through his play here last year, and some of the things we did, and he’s come in this year and he’s working hard and it appears he’s getting better.

“The ideal situation if anything happens to either your starting right or left tackle, you just plug in a guy and then you have less moving parts at the spot that’s missing. We’re trying to sort that out to see exactly where we are. Like I’ve said though, in the process, if somebody’s a standout player that we know can help us, then across the board, we’d find away to get them in there.”

Albert has started 44 games at left tackle for the Chiefs since being selected 15th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. In Albert’s lone missed start last season, right tackle Barry Richardson moved to the left edge.

Zorn Talks QB Rotation

Matt Cassel started Friday night’s preseason opener vs. Tampa Bay, but didn’t do much else. He took a total of eight snaps and didn’t attempt a single pass.

Following Monday’s practice, quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn explained the decision to have Cassel start Friday’s game despite not allowing him to pass.

“I just think that it got him ready for the game,” said Zorn. “He didn’t know that he was going to handoff every time going into it. We went through the process of an early preseason game and it got him on the field for it and he didn’t get hit. As we work through this preseason, he’ll play more and more as we go along.”

When the Chiefs did pass, backup quarterbacks Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi were under heavy duress with the second and third offensive units.

 “All the mechanisms weren’t in sync, so we had some problems in pass protection, but we’re working on scrambling anyway, so we moved around a little bit and gave ourselves a chance to throw the ball down the field,” said Zorn. “I thought that both quarterbacks did well trying to read and throw and made some good decisions.”

Particularly, Zorn also walked impressed with Stanzi’s mental toughness facing a heavy rush.

“When Ricky came off the field, I was looking at him to see if he was kind of shell-shocked because we had a couple of whiffs,” Zorn said. “But when he came off he was still enjoying the game and he was competitive and stayed in there. He was able to know what happened and went out to try and get the next play executed. I thought he responded well.”


Haley has ramped up the tempo this week at camp, holding back-to-back full padded practices. Monday’s edition featured a live goal line period pitting the first-team and second-team units against one another.

1st Offense vs. 1st Defense

1) (Ball on two-yard line) - Derrick Johnson showed his lateral speed in chasing down a stretch play that went to Jamaal Charles. Johnson was able to string Charles’ run towards the sideline and pushed him out at the one-yard line.

2) (Ball on one-yard line) - Thomas Jones went up and over a pile of defenders for a one-year TD run. He completed the TD dive with a post-jump somersault.

2nd Offense vs. 2nd Defense

1) (Ball on two-yard line) - Tyler Palko was chased (sacked) out of the pocket by Allen Bailey when coaches blew the play dead with a quick whistle.

2) (Ball on two-yard line) - Dexter McCluster was met with a big hit by Reshard Langford on a dive play just short of the goal line. Langford’s hit drew a spirited reaction by teammates and clinched a 3-1 win for the defense in the goal line period.

Practice Observations

- Only one of three players who left Sunday’s practice early was able to participate on Monday. Reserve DL Amon Gordon practiced in full while NT Anthony Toribio and LB Eric Bakhtiari remained sidelined.

- Rookie free agent Chris Harr sought aid from the training staff during 11-v-11 work, but later returned to practice. Darryl Harris also left practice early.

- Ryan O’Callaghan took reps with the second-team offense at right guard. He’s played nothing other than right tackle over his two seasons with the Chiefs. When O’Callaghan shifted inside, rookie free agent Butch Lewis manned the right edge. Lewis has played both right and left tackle in camp.

- Travis Daniels picked off Tyler Palko on a deep ball intended for Verran Tucker in competitive 11-v-11 work.

- Jamaal Charles scored on a six-yard TD run in competitive 11-v-11 work.

- Jerheme Urban's hot camp hasn't shown signs of cooling. He was back at it again today in Red Zone matchups against Brandon Flowers and Quinten Lawrence. Crisp route running seems to be helping him get open.

- Rookie Jalil Brown is showing the ability to be a physical cornerback, which could be a real asset against bigger receivers as a sub-package corner.

- It seems like this goes into every practice report, but Wallace Gilberry was once again dominant in one-on-one drills against the offensive line.


“Thomas Jones hits very hard. We were trying to knock him down and he ended up bruising up four of us. I can definitely see why he runs over linebackers in the NFL.”

“If they can do this for every base out there with every team, it would be amazing. This was the time of our lives. We had a lot of fun and the teamwork and camaraderie they had out there is something that we can take back home.”

- Post-practice reactions from troops

Photo of the Day


Jared Gaither uses his size and reach to block Andy Studebaker

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