The Kansas City Chiefs are resting and rejuvenating on their day off today, before returning to the practice fields tomorrow. When practice resumes at 8:15 AM CDT Thursday morning, the competitive juices will again be at an all-time high for every one of the players on the team's roster.
One of the Chiefs position groups, the LBs, have embraced Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's new 3-4 scheme, which will have the guys creating havoc and confusion against the opposition in 2013.
"Coach wanted us to be more aggressive," Chiefs Pro Bowl LB Tamba Hali said. "He doesn't want us to be hesitant, sitting around waiting, so this defense is a go-getter defense. Everybody has abilities; we have to take our shot."
Chiefs Pro Bowl LB Justin Houston enters his third season in the league, continuing to improve on a daily basis, impressing Hali.
"He's learned a lot of techniques in rushing the passer, he's a physical guy," Hali said of Houston. "With our game, you have to continue to work at it; you have to gain confidence and I think he's established that and he just has to build on it. That goes for all of our players, including myself. We just have to build on what we've developed over time."
During the offseason and into training camp, Chiefs coaches have described Houston as more than just a pass rusher, having ability to also cover the pass and stop the run.
"That's what I try to do," Houston said.
"I try to be good at everything I can do and not just be a guy who does just one thing. I try to do more than one thing. I came in with my mindset on just being a pass rusher, but I started watching films when the other guys did. A lot of great players can do more than one thing and that's what I want to do."
Returning for his ninth season with the team, Chiefs Pro Bowl LB Derrick Johnson is once again ready to serve as a leader to the defense, which he says has much to prove.
"Yes, we have a lot to prove," Johnson admitted. "Having that confidence, going through this training camp, working on things we need to work on. We have a whole new regime in here, so there's a lot to prove, coaches and players. It's going to be a big year for us."
DJ (30) and Hali (29) are the eldest of the LBs, but as they've shown in training camp and as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has noticed, they may be only getting better.
"I haven't seen any signs of (their window closing)," coach Reid said.
"I had a chance to look at all their tape; they're playing good football. They've been very receptive. They've done everything I've asked. They're great leaders. They know when to keep it loose and when to crank it up and I appreciate that. (When you're 30-years-old), that is when you need to feel like you're 20. They played like that last year; both of them were in the Pro Bowl – that's pretty good, I'll take that."
New to the Chiefs in 2013 is LB Frank Zombo, a Super Bowl-winning LB, formerly with the Green Bay Packers. Zombo has been with the Chiefs since April and described his new team's LBs group, as a whole.
"I was around some good linebackers out in Green Bay but, I mean, (with the Chiefs) you have three Pro Bowlers in one group," Zombo said.
"That's pretty rare to find. I think we have some good depth; some guys that have played in the league for a while with Edgar Jones, Akeem Jordan and myself. I think we have some good depth and obviously we have some solid starters. It should be interesting, how this thing plays out."
As the days roll on during Chiefs Camp, we'll continue to keep an eye on the LBs, including Nico Johnson, who has gotten off to a strong start in his first NFL training camp, as they compete for the starting ILB position, alongside DJ.
The talent and depth that Chiefs LBs coach Gary Gibbs has to work with this season is even more reason for hope and optimism that 2013 will be a very, very special year in the Kingdom.