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Cornerbacks Flowers and Routt work to forge new partnership

Posted Jun 22, 2012

After playing every game of his NFL career opposite Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers is working hard to develop chemistry with free agent addition Stanford Routt

Over his first four NFL seasons, Brandon Flowers rarely paired with a cornerback who didn’t share his first name.

That’s about to change.

Inseparable on and off the field since they arrived as members of the Chiefs’ 2008 draft class, “The Two Brandon’s” – Flowers and Carr – will split in 2012. Both cornerbacks were scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, but Flowers inked an in-season extension last September. Carr went on to score a five-year, $50.1 million deal on the open market with Dallas.

When Flowers starts his next game, the 60th of his career, it will be the first time he isn’t accompanied by Carr in the starting lineup. Flowers admits it’s something he’s thought about.

“Yeah, it’s a business,” Flowers said.  “Being here as a rookie and playing there, you kind of experience that early so you understand that it’s a business right now.  But you just need to keep going with different guys back there, different personalities, and I love it, man.  It’s fun.  The guys we have in there, everyone’s on board trying to get better.”

Carr is slated to be replaced Kansas City’s defensive backfield by longtime division rival Stanford Routt, a free agent addition this offseason from Oakland.

Though Routt and Flowers squared off against each other twice a season for the past four seasons, they were relative strangers when the Chiefs began offseason workouts in April. Even then, it took a while for the two veterans to develop a relationship.

“When I first got here, we really didn’t talk much, but it’s going real well now,” Routt said. “I’ve always seen him from the other side of the field in years past and always admired his play then. Playing alongside him now, I can tell that it’s going to be a real good year.”

The chemistry between cornerback tandems isn’t hyped like the bond shared by quarterbacks and receivers, but it’s still an important partnership.

Cornerbacks often serve as their own in-games scouts, feeding information to each other about opponents’ routes and receiving personnel as games progress. They also have a little moxy to them, feeding and competing off each others’ success.

“If your guy makes a play, it’s going to feel like, as a competitor, you’ve got to make a play,” Flowers explained. “Now you don’t want to force things as a corner, but when the ball comes you are going to make a play on the ball.

“You might see the same routes on two different sides of the field, I might play a route a different way.  I might be soft on a route while he all over a route.  I just want to know what he’s seeing for him to be all over a route.  It’s learning the game.  This game is 90% mental. It’s just trying to learn and get any advantage you can, that’ll help you out a lot.”

Flowers and Carr had that type of relationship. They hung out together, studied together and celebrated together.

Carr was there for Flowers’ first career interception against the Jets in 2008. When Flowers picked off Brett Favre for a second time and raced 91 yards for his first-career touchdown return, it was Carr who joined the celebration.

And for Flowers’ ice-filled, bird-barraged bath in the Black Hole last season? Andy Studebaker was the only teammate who ventured into that setting, but Carr was there to offer congratulations from a safe distance.

Pick any big play from Flowers’ 60-game NFL career and Carr was on the field for it. Those types of connections don’t just happen, so Flowers and Routt spent significant time learning about each other’s game during OTAs and minicamp.

Through that process, Flowers has also been able to take away several things from Routt that he didn’t share with Carr.

“He’s a technician, you know, he always wants to get better,” Flowers said of Routt. “If he gets beat on one route or if a guy makes a great catch on him, he wants to ask the receiver coach ‘What’s this?’

“That’s just a sign of someone who’s just trying to get great and be great.  Its catching on with me, you know, I’m trying to find out why offenses are trying to attack me now, what they’re trying to attack me on. I’m definitely learning from him, he’s a guy that you can learn from he’s been in the league for a while.  I think we are going to feed off of each other this year.”

Barring injury, Flowers and Routt are locked in as the Chiefs starting cornerbacks and look in line to pair for a load of snaps this season. Carr and Flowers rarely left the field when healthy and there isn’t any indication that Routt’s role will be any different than Carr’s old one.

Replicating the relationship Flowers and Carr shared will be difficult, if not impossible, but Flowers and Routt are working hard to forge their own unique partnership in Kansas City’s defensive backfield.

“If you want to do anything in life and it’s a team, if you want to be in any way successful, the teammates, the players, they have to care for one another,” Routt said.

“I know that definitely first-hand from places that I’ve been. You’ve got to care for one another if you want to be successful. You can go ahead, you can win games here and there, but if you really, really want to do something special, everybody has to care for one another.”

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