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Stanford Routt out to learn Chiefs Way

Posted Jul 31, 2012

New Chiefs cornerback works to refine technique in St. Joseph under the guidance of Romeo Crennel and Emmitt Thomas

St. Joseph, Mo. – A Shield-emblazoned envelope greeted Kevin Ross in his office every Monday morning. And the former Chiefs cornerback knew that its contents – a mea culpa about Stanford Routt’s penalties the day before – would remain unchanged from the previous week’s envelope.

As Routt’s secondary coach in Oakland, Ross was left wondering if the Raiders logo on Routt’s helmet triggered more pass interference calls than his play on the field did.

“The league admitted that half of his penalties weren’t penalties at all,” said Ross. “You start to wonder if it’s because he was wearing Silver and Black, and the thing is, those penalties can lose you ball games. Stanford had to have thick skin to come back the way he did each week.”

Deservedly or undeservedly, Routt has gained a reputation as a Jekyll and Hyde-type player. The good side of Routt was the one that limited opposing quarterbacks to a 51 percent completion percentage and opposing wide receivers to an 11-yard per catch average in 2011. That player picked off four passes last season and can be the one to step in for departed cornerback Brandon Carr.

That Stanford Routt is an extension of the 2010 version that one of the league’s best, if not the best, second cornerbacks. There’s little debate that he’s also one of the league’s most skilled cornerbacks in press coverage.

The other half of Routt is more well-known to the average NFL fan. He was the most penalized player on the most penalized team in NFL history last season. The eight-year veteran was the named transgressor in nine defensive holding and pass interference calls last season – and that was just during the last three games.

In total, referees penalized Routt 17 times in 2011.

“He has to learn and understand how we play, because how he played at other places is not the way we play,” said Crennel.  “He’s got to ingrain himself in the way we play – the Chiefs way.”

Routt’s first lesson came in the St. Joseph heat and in pads. Crennel needed to see Routt in physical press coverage. Only then could he discern if the alarming amount of penalties Routt committed were from a breakdown in technique or as Ross suggested – an unfortunate recipient flags.

He was tested early by the Chiefs hottest receiver in camp and started slow. Jonathan Baldwin gave Routt a slight head fake toward the corner and cut inside him, catching a perfectly-placed dig pattern to open up nine-on-seven drills.

Routt adjusted from there. Two plays later, he ran step-for-step with Baldwin on a fly route down the left sideline. And more importantly, he avoided the kind of contact that referees whistled him for as a Raider.

Not long after, Crennel’s wish for Routt came true. He jammed Baldwin at the line of scrimmage, and with the timing of the play disrupted, Matt Cassel had to look for other receivers.

Add in a tipped pass, and Routt turned in a passing exam to teammate Brandon Flowers.

“He’s a great corner coming in and making plays, and we feed off of each other’s energy out there,” Flowers said. “It’s just like when Carr was over there, it’s not a number one or number two corner out here. We are just two number ones. We’re just great corners on the same squad.”

Of course, it’s not Flowers’ judgment that ultimately counts. But so far Crennel seems to like what he sees.

Routt has the requisite size and speed to play cornerback. Save for newcomer Peyton Manning, he knows the AFC West passers like the back of his hand. And if he avoids last year’s penalty plague, Routt can make plays as the physical, press cornerback who’ll compliment Brandon Flowers.

“I know that he has a nose for the ball, and he can make some plays on the ball,” Crennel said.  “He’s done that a couple of times in the two days that we have been here. Now we have the opportunity to look at him and see and know exactly what he can do.”