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Heartland Health Practice Report: 8/14/11

Posted Aug 14, 2011

Jared Gaither makes his training camp debut, Succop and McCluster don't see eye-to-eye on new kickoff rules, plus other notes from practice

ST. JOSEPH, MO – Jared Gaither made his Chiefs training camp debut Sunday afternoon in front of a nice sized crowd on hand for final weekend practice at MWSU. The 6-9, 340-pound tackle played exclusively on the left side in his first outing, working with the second-team offense.

“I would say we’ll probably start at left and then go from there,” Head Coach Todd Haley said. “First and foremost is trying to get him into baseline physical condition that we feel like gives him a chance to succeed safely.”

Gaither’s physical conditioning was put to test from the get-go with Haley holding a full-padded practice on the first session back from Friday night’s preseason opener. It was the first time the Chiefs have worn full pads for the entirety of practice this training camp.

Gaither’s addition was welcomed by former Ravens teammates Kelly Gregg and Le’Ron McClain.

“He’s a great addition,” said Gregg. “He sat out last year and he’s hungry. I’ve talked to him and he’s ready to be a Chief.”

Branden Albert, who is has been a friend of Gaither’s for a number of years, continued to work with the first-team offense at left tackle. Barry Richardson worked throughout practice on the right edge with Ryan O’Callaghan backing him up.

“(Gaither) is a hard worker, I’ll tell you that much,” McClain said. “I’ve been with him since my rookie year. He’s a guy that’s going to come in and just physically maul people. He loves to play the game of football.”

“I remember those long arms around my neck at practices,” Gregg added.

Gaither is the third member of the Ravens to join the Chiefs this preseason. He and McClain signed as unrestricted free agents while Gregg arrived as a free agent signee following release.

“I know he’s ready; I’m glad he’s out here with us,” said McClain.

Succop Likes New Kicking Rules; McCluster Doesn’t

Chiefs K Ryan Succop owns a 100% touchback percentage this preseason. Granted, he’s only attempted one kickoff, but six of seven kickoffs from Friday night’s preseason opener went for touchbacks.

All of the kicks landed at least five yards deep in the end zone.

“As a kicker, you like the rule,” Succop said.

Return man Dexter McCluster doesn’t share the same opinion.

“Honestly, I really don’t like it,” says McCluster. “I also know a lot of returners around the league don’t like it because it stops us from using what we use best – our dynamic (play-making) ability and versatility. For us not to be able to catch the ball and run is going to be pretty hard to adjust to.”

Friday’s sample size definitely points to touchbacks increasing far more than the 5-15% that the NFL Competition Committee predicted when proposing to move kickoffs up five yards to the 35-yard line. Owners passed the new kicking rules this spring after making a few modifications to the committee’s original proposal.

“Right now people are thinking that it’s going to be touchbacks every single time you kick the ball, and early in the season you’ll see a lot of that,” Succop predicted. “But as the weather turns and guys legs get tired it won’t be a touchback every time come December.”

Excluding Dustin Colquitt’s kick after a safety, Chiefs specialists have yet to see any returnable kicks.

Quinten Lawrence logged the only true kickoff return Friday night for either team, opting to take it out of the end zone five yards deep. He was tackled at the eight-yard line after gaining 13 yards.

“I should have been smarter about that, but I wanted to make a play,” Lawrence said. “It was about six yards into the end zone and I should have kneeled it, but I was eager to make a play. It’s tempting being a young guy trying to make this team to want to make a play, but at the same time you have to be a little smarter.”

“It’s so tempting,” McCluster added. “I know we have to slow ourselves down, but as a competitor and a returner we’ll be trying to get out of there sometimes.”

The Chiefs claimed kickoff specialist Todd Carter off waivers late last week, but Succop received a vote of confidence from Head Coach Todd Haley prior to Sunday’s practice.

“As you saw, I think Ryan, from where we were kicking, we were asking him to not to get it in the end zone a couple of times and it was still five or six yards deep,” Haley said. “I wouldn’t look too much either way other than we’re getting a chance to develop a guy and if he can improve and give us any opportunity then that would be something we would think about.”

Practice Observations

- After beginning Sunday’s practice with a full slate of players, three Chiefs left practice early. Anthony Toribio, Amon Gordon and Eric Bakhtiari all saw their practices cut short. There is no additional information on any of the injuries.

- Quinten Lawrence continues to show promise at his new position. The wide receiver turned cornerback led the Chiefs with seven tackles Friday night and made several nice defensive plays Sunday including a pick-six off Ricky Stanzi. He’s also recorded the biggest hit of camp, tackling FB Shane Bannon behind the line of scrimmage during last week’s night practice.

- Despite begin out of football for nearly two years, veteran WR Keary Colbert isn’t showing much rust in the receiving game. Matt Cassel looked his way this afternoon for a third-down conversion as Colbert broke free in front of Brandon Carr.

- Derrick Johnson forced a fumble after Dexter McCluster came out of the backfield to catch a short check-down pass in front of the linebackers.

- In competitive 11-v-11 work, Cassel found Tony Moeaki on third-down crossing route that went for 20+ yards after the catch. The defense later stalled the drive when Jon McGraw sniffed out a screen pass to McCluster on a third-and-13 snap.

Overheard

“He’s a little undersized, but other than that he’s got tremendous potential.”

-NT Kelly Gregg’s sarcastic analysis of 6-9, 340-pound T Jared Gaither

Photo of the Day


Rookie Jalil Brown receives in-game coaching from Todd Haley and Brandon Flowers Friday night

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