Actions always speak louder than words, and when it comes to buying into a new way of doing things lip service doesn’t pay dividends.
We’ve heard from a number of Chiefs personnel this off-season. In general, each man has spoken about a well-planned, well-understood “TEAM” way of doing things. The way of going about business has centered on the traits of hard work, accountability and self-improvement.
As a result, structured off-season workouts have been demanding, but the hope is that they turn into something rewarding. The head coach, general manager and players on each side of the football have all alluded to the message being delivered and received loud and clear.
All of this was both exciting and encouraging to hear, particularly when compared to the off-season that led up to training camp a year ago. But, even with the positive reviews, we still didn’t have any tangible proof of a change in attitude and action. We’d heard, but we hadn’t seen.
On Monday we finally saw, first-hand, exactly what each of these of these men has talked about. On Monday we witnessed a clear commitment to the 2010 football season.
When the 2010 Chiefs took the field yesterday, 84 of the 85 rostered players showed up for the opening to Kansas City’s voluntary organized team activities. That’s the highest count for such a workout in recent franchise history. In a league where 100% attendance to non-mandatory functions essentially unheard of, a 98.8% return rate is incredibly impressive (particularly when 100% of those players under contract showed).
Two of those 84 players who packed the Chiefs indoor training center were surprise attendees. Throughout most of the off-season it’s been generally assumed that veterans
Turns out, that was not the case.
“My schedule gave me an opportunity to come back and I have a couple reasons why I am back,” Waters said. “One (is) to get with the team because there are a lot of new things we are putting in and I want to make sure I get familiar with all the nuances on the offense. Two (is) we have a big year in the CBA and I wanted to make sure to get back because it is going to be a big year about educating the players.”
Very active with the players union, Waters was elected to the NFLPA executive committee this past spring. Vrabel and Denver S Brian Dawkins are the only other members outside of Waters, from the AFC West, that hold seats on that prestigious committee. Both Waters’ and Vrabel’s association with the union, and status as proven veteran players, have played major roles in the two bypassing OTA sessions in recent years.
“I have always said I am going to make sure to take care of business so that is going to be between me and the team,” Waters said. “Like I said, my plan is to be here as much as possible, it may be all of them, it may not. That is something I will be communicating with the team if there is a time that I am not here.”
Both Waters and Vrabel had been training on their own time prior to Monday’s OTA, making yesterday’s practice session the first time that either player had seen a number of their teammates since Kansas City’s 44-24 victory in Denver on January 3rd. But even though the pair had been training away from Arrowhead, reports were still being communicated back.
“I have had some conversations with some of my friends on the team and they all seem very happy and the attitude around here seems to be very positive,” Waters said. “I am just trying to fit in and do my part.”
There will likely be times over the next 13 OTA dates that the Chiefs have far more that one player missing in action for one reason or another, but Monday’s returns started off on the right foot. For a team like the Chiefs, May 17th represented the next step in progression.
“A year under our belt goes a long way,” head coach Todd Haley said. “That was a big year last year to lay the foundation for what the expectations were, and are going to be year-in and year-out. I just think, as I said, the off-season has been better just because of the year under the belt – everybody knows what to expect and how we want it done. And again, those guys are in here and that’s a good sign.”
When it comes to players buying into the system, there may not be anything that is more important. Right now, the actions inside the Chiefs clubhouse are pointing towards a complete buy-in.
"The one thing I can say that's different between now and the past few years is that you have an organization that's going the same way," Waters said. "No matter whether you agree or disagree with things, the fact that you have a whole organization going the same way, and on the same page, that's a good thing."