The Chiefs extended free agent G
Lilja, a hometown kid, accepted the offer to return to his familiar settings and off-season home. However, the opportunity to come home wasn’t the only selling point for Kansas City. Lilja had other offers as well. He needed an extra push of his own; a push that came in the form of re-uniting with an old teammate.
Lilja’s first stop in Kansas City was a short one, but during the spring and summer of 2004 he would learn lessons that carried with him to his next stop in Indianapolis.
“When you’re a rookie and you come in with a group that they had here, you just kind of keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open,” Lilja said on Thursday. “Some of the stuff that I learned from Casey (Wiegmann), Brian (Waters) and Will (Shields) has helped me throughout my entire career.
“That’s the great thing about those guys,” Lilja continued. “They’re not afraid to help a guy out who is wet behind the ears and doesn’t really know much. I learned a lot from those guys.”
With Lilja being both an undersized and undrafted player himself, Wiegmann represented an example of a long-shot who turned his small window of opportunity into a career of professional longevity. Lilja took notice.
In fact, Lilja took so much notice that Wiegmann’s signing influenced Lilja’s decision to return to Kansas City. In essence, the Chiefs got a two-for-one return on former offensive linemen when Wiegmann signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 12th.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t (influence me),” Lilja said of the Wiegmann signing. “I was already pretty excited about the opportunity, but having a guy like Casey around was an extra incentive.”
Lilja, who was already in contract talks with the Chiefs, went ahead and made his signing in Kansas City official just four days after Wiegmann.
“When we signed him, I wasn’t a member here yet,” Lilja recalled. “But I got real excited, not only for Casey but for Chiefs fans. I’ve always admired how he’s played and how he carries himself. It’s cool to be in the locker room again.”
Chiefs fans hope that the two can pair with Waters to remind them of the those offenses of the mid-2000s once more.