Steeper Curve For Rookies

Posted Aug 4, 2011

Rookies didn't get their first look at the playbook until camp's first meeting

ST. JOSEPH, MO – Outside of seventh-round draft pick Shane Bannon, none of the Chiefs rookies are working with their respective first-team units…yet. Bannon strays from the pack only by default. He’s been the only team’s only active fullback since camp started.

Soon, all of that will change.

With nearly a week of practice under their belts, it’s only a matter of time before the training wheels are removed from Kansas City’s rookie class. Practices will soon look different with the new league year scheduled to commence Thursday.

When veteran signees return to the field, camp will begin to move past its orientation phase and Chiefs rookies have to adjust quickly.

“Normally those guys would have been around in April on their own for a weekend,” Head Coach Todd Haley said. “These guys have their noses to the grindstone and understand that their nose needs to be to the grindstone and each guy has their own individual plan as set by us.

“It may take a little more time to sort through some of them; what they’re capable of, what they do best, what their role potentially could be; obviously assuming that they would make the team. Then go from there.”

Haley has been slow on the gas pedal throughout camp’s initial week. As mandated by the NFL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, camp’s first two days were non-padded and Haley’s only scheduled brief periods for contact since.

With the slower tempo in practices, the rookie learning curve has been more mental than physical. The loss of an entire off-season has left few other options. None of Kansas City’s rookies received their playbooks until camp’s first team meeting.

“You just have to dive into (the playbook) and you kind of have to learn it all over again,” rookie QB Ricky Stanzi said. “They try to crunch it in to a couple practices and you have to learn pretty quick.”

“I did everything that I could (to prepare),” second-round pick Rodney Hudson added. “Of course nobody was exactly ready when we went a whole off-season without a playbook or anything. Nobody is just going to come in and say they’re ready. They don’t know the plays, we don’t know the plays, so it’s just a part of training camp to learn and that’s what it’s for.”

The Chiefs most extensive contact to date came during Wednesday night’s practice at Spratt Stadium. Haley had his club bump helmets in a controlled environment for nearly an hour before instructing his squad to shed the shoulder pads for the second half of practice.

“Pretty much for everybody, I would imagine the terminology is the biggest adjustment,” Hudson said. “Going from college, every coach is different and they’re going to use different words for the same common knowledge, so probably terminology.”

But even in limited contact, training camp has been anything but a breeze. A lack of camp bodies has also increased the workload at thinner positions.

Physically, rookie Jerrell Powe may be the most tested rookie through camp’s first week. He and Anthony Toribio have taken all of the reps as nose tackle while veteran Kelly Gregg waits for the NFL to grant recently signed veterans the clearance to practice.

While in pads, Powe has worked extensively on holding two-gap technique lined head-up over center.  Those drills often include three offensive linemen chipping on the rookie.

“I think it’s been good for me and also Toribio has been a great inspiration with me,” Powe said. “He’s been carrying me, helping me out, showing me the ropes, I think it’s good that I’m getting the chance to take these early snaps, get adjusted to the defense, do some things that RAC (Romeo Crennel) wants us to do, and I’m just excited and thankful that I had an opportunity to get these snaps.”

This year, the rookie learning curve has gotten significantly steeper.

“As a whole they look like they have their heads screwed on straight and understand the task in front of them,” Haley said. “The indicators are good.”

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