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Camp Battle: No. 2 QB

Posted Jul 31, 2011

Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi begin camp vying to be Matt Cassel's primary backup

ST. JOSEPH, MO – The race to backup Chiefs starting QB Matt Cassel has only just begun. For now, the battle involves two quarterbacks with very little NFL experience.

Tyler Palko is the veteran - an athletic left-hander who was on his fourth team in four years last season, but received a shot at the job during the final stretch of 2010.

Ricky Stanzi is the rookie – a fifth-round pick out of Iowa who appeared to be a perfect match for the Chiefs offense during his senior season, but is also battling the aftermath of a work stoppage that impeded his interaction with coaches, teammates and the Chiefs playbook.

“I just think we need to give it some time,” Head Coach Todd Haley said of finding the Chiefs No. 2 quarterback. “We need to coach the heck out of them, and I know they will be, and really I know I’m over dramatizing it, but I’m excited about that position. I’m excited about what’s going to occur here going forward. There’s been great growth to this point and I expect even better.”

Palko has received the majority of second-team reps in camp’s opening sessions, but competitive periods have been limited and the Chiefs are clearly easing their rookies into life in an NFL program.

“It’s not about depth charts right now,” Palko said. “We didn’t have an off-season together, so the only thing I’m really focused on is getting the playbook down in the couple of changes we made last year and going out to get better every day. That depth chart will work itself out later.”

Palko’s year-plus tenure with the Chiefs has been his longest stint with a single club since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He’s spent the majority of his professional career on practice squads, serving on the eight-man developmental teams in New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

“That’s the way it goes,” Palko said. “Some guys are first-round draft picks and they’re pretty much guaranteed to be here for a little bit. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, I’m not one of those guys.”

Palko knows that winning the No. 2 job means building off last year’s late-season promotion where he served as the Chiefs primary backup in two of the final four contests. He also knows he’s fighting the numbers game.

Kansas City kept just two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster for the first 14 weeks of 2010 and a similar decision likely wouldn’t bode well for Palko.

“I’m looking for guys that are getting better,” Haley said. “You need to see progress. Obviously when you look at us right now we have Palko, we have Stanzi - neither one of them has played a whole bunch in the league, obviously Tyler’s been around a little longer but hasn’t had a lot of play time, but he’s here for a reason.”

Though Palko and Stanzi are currently the Chiefs only two backup candidates, Haley wouldn’t rule out adding a veteran presence as camp progresses. This is the first season in recent memory that the Chiefs have not seen an experienced veteran vie for the No. 2 job.

Brodie Croyle, who is currently an unrestricted free agent, backed up Cassel each of the last two seasons after serving as a starter from 2007-08. Before Croyle came a well-traveled Damon Huard and before Huard was “Maytag Man” Todd Collins.

Whether it’s just he and Stanzi battling for the job, or if there’s another player added to the mix, Palko has an opportunity this preseason to write a new chapter in his football career.

“I’m fortunate enough and lucky enough to be playing in the NFL,” said Palko. “I’m going to make the most of my opportunity and work my tail off and at the end of the day see where it’s at.”

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