Within minutes of the doors opening Tuesday morning, a steady stream of players had already made their way inside the Chiefs Practice Facility. That’s when it truly hit me that football season is here.
The locker room and training room both saw significant traffic shortly after 9:00 AM (CST) – the first opportunity for players to use team facilities for the better part five months.
Pro Bowl QB
While plenty of smiles and glad-handing was had, it was also clear that the Chiefs have already turned their full focus towards football. With the Chiefs reporting to training camp Thursday evening, players used their first day back to check-in with trainers and go over equipment needs with members of the Chiefs football support staff. Many players used the indoor practice field to get in an afternoon workout.
Meanwhile, Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley spent their morning inside the Chiefs media room before heading back to their offices shortly before the 9 o’clock hour to begin signing rookies and begin negotiations with veteran free agents.
Here’s a run-down of the most notable topics Pioli and Haley covered…
1) It’s reasonable to expect that all draft picks will be signed before training camp
It appears that training camp holdouts will be a thing of the past under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement…at least that’s the hope.
The new rookie wage scale doesn’t give draft picks much incentive to hold out anymore. The lengths of contracts are already set at four years plus an option for all first rounds picks and at four years for all other rounds. Compensation is largely fixed as well.
“It’s reasonable to expect that (rookies will be in camp), and we’re hopeful,” Pioli said. “We were able to contact our draft choices and rookie free agents (Monday) and their agents and talk to them, and I think the way that this system has been put together, it leaves, it makes it pretty close to cut and dry, and there’s minimums and maximums not only for the rookie pool, but each individual player, so hopefully it shouldn’t be too challenging. It’s reasonable to expect that.”
The Chiefs have nine draft picks to sign this year, totaling 10% of the club’s training camp roster.
2) Haley unsure of Chiefs first padded practice
Under terms of the new CBA, the Chiefs are permitted to hold their first padded practice on Sunday. Regardless, Haley wasn’t ready to commit to wearing pads that early in camp.
“The number one thing that we have to do as a staff is to evaluate where our guys are,” Haley said. “We haven’t seen them but for a couple hour span and I think that’s going to be a critical aspect of this in evaluating where our guys are.”
Haley has traditionally run a pad-heavy training camp, but he’s also based that workload on the club’s off-season strength and conditioning program.
“I don’t think you can replicate what goes on in an off-season and not everybody gets to see that,” Haley said. “But when you have 70-80 guys working together, over a three-to-four month span, that’s pretty productive.”
We’ll get Haley’s overall impression of the team’s conditioning level early in camp. For now, he appears confident that the players will report in shape.
“I think we have a good group of guys who now have a couple of years under their belt and understand our expectations,” Haley said. “I think they have high expectations, so I believe and I’m confident that they’ve been doing the things they need to do.
“It’s different on your own, but I am confident that they’ve been working hard and the majority of the team will be in a position where we can get going the way we maybe would normally.”
3) Chiefs will spend in free agency; philosophy remains unchanged
Pioli was pressed early about the club’s ability to spend in free agency following an uncapped year last season. This year, the cap is back in place with the agreement of a new CBA.
Under the new CBA, the salary cap will be set at $120.375 million, while the salary floor will sit around $108 million for 2011. The Chiefs, like all NFL clubs, will need to be within those numbers by 3:01 PM (CST) on Thursday, August 4th.
“We are going to spend,” Pioli said. “I haven’t been given a limit on what we can spend. Anyway what the plan is, is to spend money wisely, I can’t tell you what we’ll spend. I don’t have a budget so to speak. We’re going to spend money as we need to spend money to get good football players signed.”
Part of the Chiefs free agency strategy has been to re-sign current players to extensions. The club reached in-season extensions with
The Chiefs will also place an emphasis on re-signing their own free agents as well.
“We’re going to sign football players, some of our own,” Pioli said. “That’s a big part of free agency, resigning your own football players.”
A guide to the Chiefs in-house free agents can be found here.
4) Haley feels staff is well prepared for lockout challenges; Undecided on play-caller
The Chiefs coaching staff spent the majority of the NFL Lockout inside their offices. There were no players to instruct, but there was still plenty of work to get done.
Aside from annually scheduled June vacations, Kansas City’s coaches put in full days at Arrowhead for much of the off-season. Installation schedules were discussed, opponents broken down, players evaluated and, most important, post-lockout plans formulated.
“I feel good about our plan,” Haley said. “I feel good about the direction that we’re going. Everybody is under the same rule and I think that the staffs and the organizations that are best prepared and have the best plan for this situation will have a chance to excel. To me, I think our entire staff is thinking of this as an opportunity to continue to build this team, get better and continue to develop our young players.”
As far as calling the offensive plays, Haley has yet to make a public declaration. Offensive line coach Bill Muir was promoted to offensive coordinator in the beginning months of the off-season, but play-calling duties have not been finalized.
“We don’t know; we really don’t,” Haley said. “That’s a big question, but we haven’t had a practice. The good thing is again we got a bunch of confident guys that have called plays in the NFL, but that’s something you determine through repetition, through scripting plays, what you’re going to run that day.
“That will get determined, and like I’ve said, it’ll be about getting it right. The good thing is we’ve got a bunch of guys who have done it. I’m just excited about our staff in general; you know that we’re able to come back in year three really, essentially running the same system on both sides of the ball. That was the entire key.
Haley called the Chiefs offensive plays in 2009. Charlie Weis, who departed for the University of Florida in January, held those duties last season.
5) Chiefs will announce rookie free agent class when signings complete
Numerous reports have already linked several undrafted free agents signings to the Chiefs. The Chiefs, however, have yet to make any of their signings public.
As has been the case in past years, the Chiefs will wait until the contracts are physically signed before releasing player names.
“Yesterday, we agreed to terms with a number of rookie free agents, which we are allowed to do,” Pioli said. “The signing can’t happen until today. We will let everyone know as soon as we get that list confirmed from a process standpoint.
“What we’ve done consistently since we’ve been here is when we get pen to ink, you will get the names and we’re hoping, based on physicals and actually signing the deals we’ll have some names for you today.”
Stay tuned. When it comes to signing undrafted free agents the Chiefs have historically announced their entire class at the same time. Pioli did not indicate whether or not that would be the case this year.