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Arrowhead Report: Up The Urgency

Posted Jan 6, 2011

Chiefs players are feeling the difference of playoff preparation

When the Chiefs drew a familiar time slot to kickoff the franchise’s first Wildcard Weekend home game in 17 years, Coach Todd Haley breathed a short sigh of relief.

Admittedly superstitious, Haley could at least keep one area consistent for a team: preparing for a noon kickoff. For a team that lacks overall playoff experience, kicking off on Sunday at noon offered a small consolation in keeping the week closer to normal.

“That was something that I was happy about,” Haley said of Sunday’s draw. “Routine is a big part of what we do in this game. I have a sign up that you don’t ever want to confuse routine with actual commitment, but routine helps and when you get thrown out of your routine, it’s throws you a little bit.”

More players than usual flooded the building on Tuesday during their scheduled day off, but meetings, locations and practice times have all remained similar throughout the week. On Friday, the Chiefs will hold practice at Arrowhead Stadium just as they have before every home game this season.

Familiarity is a small token of comfort for a young team as they head into the most important weekend of the season.

 “In practice, the film room and in the meeting room, intensity has increased,” rookie S Kendrick Lewis observed. “There is a sense of urgency. We know that this is a big game.”

Playoff preparation has taken everything at Arrowhead up a notch. Outside of practice times and meeting locations staying similar, this has been anything besides a typical week for most of Chiefs players. The intensity levels are rising as kickoff draws closer, particularly for those 31 members of the team with no playoff experience.

“You don’t want paralysis by analysis,” Haley added. “You just need to know your opponent and you’ve got to get to know your opponent so that you can go out on Sunday and play fast because the tempo and level of play will go up. Everybody that’s been there has seen it, there will be a little more adrenaline, a little more crowd energy, all those things.”

National media has flooded the team’s training facility to an extent that the Chiefs haven’t seen in years. Excitement is also part of the environment, and so are nerves.

Inside the locker room, the heightened emphasis on preparation is visible. For the rookies, it’s more than seeing. They can feel the difference.  

“For you not to see how important this is…you hear about it…but you can actually feel it,” Lewis said. “You can sense that this is serious and you have to put your mindset on to attack this as a win or go home. It’s time to strap up and give it all you’ve got.”

Battling the fine line between over-preparation and letting productive adrenaline turn into a negative side effect is something that Haley, and a handful of veterans, are trying to balance across a young locker room.

Kansas City’s coaching staff is loaded with postseason experience and there are a handful of veterans with lofty playoff resumes as well.

This weekend will mark LB Mike Vrabel’s 20th career playoff game; experience that’s vital to a young locker room.

“Guys like Vrabel don’t let you play like a rookie,” S Eric Berry said. “They force you to elevate your game.”

Another way that the Chiefs are preparing is by utilizing situational reviews similar to what the team spent time doing in training camp. Its part of an approach that Haley hopes will prepare his team for anything they might see on Sunday.

At the very least, he hopes they won’t be surprised.

“It’s about how you handle each situation,” Haley said.

“For instance, in the (Sugar Bowl), Arkansas blocks a punt and makes a great play. They have a chance to pick it up and run it in, but they fall on it. There is an interception a few plays later and you’d say, is there anything we can learn from that situation? “

As we discussed earlier this week, Baltimore tips the scales when it comes to playoff experience. How Kansas City’s first-timers are able to adapt to an amplified environment will go a long way in determining Sunday’s outcome.

“It’s hard, but you have to be a pro about it,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “Even though you’re excited to be in this tournament, you have to understand that it’s still just a game. When I say it’s just a game, I mean that you have to do the little things right and keep the same focus that you had when you were winning games throughout the year.

“You know that you can’t lose.”

Haley uses “G-Word”

Todd Haley has refrained from using the “G-Word” to describe the Chiefs all season long. That word of course, is “good.” Now that the team has clinched its first division title in seven years has earned the right to host a playoff game, Haley finally defined what he makes of the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs.

Apparently, he dropped the word a few weeks ago.

“I never made it public, but I told the guys a few weeks ago that I thought we were a good team and we’ll see what we can do with it from there,” Haley said. “It’s hard to get into the NFL Playoffs. There are 12 teams left and we’re one of them.”

The question had risen in press conferences throughout the season, but Haley continued to simply describe the Chiefs as a “developing team.” That part hasn’t changed, but using the “G-Word” certainly says a lot about Haley’s belief in the Chiefs current transformation.

“You guys have asked me a whole bunch, ‘are you a good team…aren’t you a good team?’” Haley said. “I think that each year starts fresh and that you define who you are going to be through the experiences that you go through. Each and every game that we played during the regular season helped define us getting to this point and what we are right now. I don’t’ think that’s over. I think that we have to use this week to its fullest.”

Berry Wins Honor; Prepares for Reed

Eric Berry made history on Thursday morning by becoming the first player in franchise history to win an NFL Rookie of the Month honor. While it represents the highest honor that any rookie has won this season, Berry preferred to talk about this Sunday’s game during Thursday’s media session.

Most notably, Berry wanted to talk about Ravens S Ed Reed.

“Ed Reed is somebody that I looked up to growing up,” Berry said. “He and Sean Taylor are my two favorite safeties of all time. Being on the field with him this Sunday…I don’t’ even have words for it. With me growing up watching him and now seeing that I’m actually going to be on the field with him is going to be a big step. I can’t even put it into words. I’m just looking forward to it.”

As for the award, Berry had this to say.

“People are making those decisions based off opinion,” Berry said. “It’s good for me to be recognized and I appreciate that, but it’s more important for us to get ready to win on Sunday. I’m proud of it, but at the same time I really want this playoff win and to get better as we move forward.”

Chiefs Injury Report

WR Dwayne Bowe returned from illness to fully participate in Thursday’s practice after missing all of Wednesday’s session. Still absent, however, was Pro Bowl G Brian Waters (illness). He was reported as being in the building earlier in the day.

As for Waters’ gameday status, Haley mentioned that the veteran’s experience helps his cause in preparing without practice.  

 “I would think that, without getting too deep into it, that Brian has been around long enough,” Haley said. “The important thing is to get him back to health because that’s no fun and everybody knows it.”

WR Quinten Lawrence was a new addition to Thursday’s injury report, also battling illness. With three players battling sickness this week, Haley has brought back kindergarten curriculum to the Chiefs locker room.

“We’ve had a re-emphasis, lesson, on kindergarten rules,” Haley said. “Wash your hands in warm water for two minutes. As always, we’re doing a good job in our building as trying the best we can to keep the germs out and the clean in.”

Ravens Injury Report

Topping Baltimore’s list of notables was Ed Reed’s upgrade to a limited practice participant and defensive starters Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs remaining sidelined. Starting center Matt Birk was also upgraded from limited to full participation.

DID NOT PRACTICE: DT Haloti Ngata (thigh); LB Terrell Suggs (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPANTS: LB Dannell Ellerbe (head); LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder); LB Jameel McClain (back); CB Josh Wilson (head); S Tom Zbikowski (back); S Ed Reed (chest)

FULL PARTICIPANTS: WR Derrick Mason (abs/ankle); T Michael Oher (knee/ankle); WR David Reed (wrist); C Matt Birk (knee)

Another Award Worth Voting For…

The National Football League, Prilosec OTC® and Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach JOHN MADDEN today announced the start of fan voting at www.NFL.com/prilosecotc for the second annual Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award, presented by Prilosec OTC.  The award honors the NFL’s best offensive line for the 2010 NFL regular season. Fan voting, which lasts until Friday, January 21, serves as the final piece of the puzzle in determining this season’s best protectors in the NFL.  

Throughout the regular season, Coach Madden has been closely tracking the top offensive lines in the NFL, and has narrowed the list to five (5) finalists for the 2010 NFL season: the ATLANTA FALCONS (23 sacks allowed - third fewest in the NFL); the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (averaged 164.2 rushing yards per game – best in the NFL); the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (averaged 32.4 points per game – best in the NFL); the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (33 touchdown passes – tied for second in the NFL); and the NEW YORK GIANTS (tied for fewest sacks allowed – 16). 

These five teams have been selected based on a combination of criteria including offensive line statistics – sacks allowed, rushing and passing yardage, time of possession, O-line penalties, 3rd and 4th down conversion percentages and red zone scoring conversions - plus Madden’s own personal observations throughout the season.  Each of the finalists have been recognized at least once this season by Madden as an “O-Line of the Week” for their consistent and reliable protection during the 2010 NFL season. 

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