Pioli believes Chiefs are making progress during odd camp

ST. JOSEPH (AP) — After the NFL lockout wiped away most of the offseason, resulting in a most unusual training camp, Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli believes things are finally getting back to normal.

Just in time, too. Kansas City’s first preseason game is Friday night.

“We’re making progress,” Pioli said after a walkthrough Wednesday morning. “It was an awkward start in terms of logistics and getting everyone organized and understanding what we could do, what we couldn’t do, not having everybody at once at the beginning part. But it looks like we’re finally into what appears to be a normal group.”

That’s especially good news to Pioli.

The entire offseason was condensed into just a couple days once the owners and players agreed on a new labor deal, so Pioli has been sequestered in his room trying to maneuver through free agency — and the new rules governing it — to bolster the defending AFC West champs any way he could.

Along with bringing back center Casey Wiegmann, Pioli reeled in former Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston to give quarterback Matt Cassel another option. Defensive end Wallace Gilberry and offensive lineman Barry Richardson signed free agent tenders, and former Chargers linebacker Brandon Siler came aboard.

Pioli then reached out to pluck defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and fullback Le’Ron McClain from the Baltimore Ravens, the team that sent the Chiefs packing in the first round of the playoffs. Then the Chiefs’ GM made his most significant move by reaching terms on a five-year, $60 million contract with outside linebacker Tamba Hali.

“The priority is always to get players that are better,” Pioli said, “or players that will improve our situation.”

Pioli said he’s not necessarily done making moves, though he acknowledged no one position group is due an overhaul. That includes the quarterback spot, where the two backups behind Cassel are fifth-round draft choice Ricky Stanzi and young journeyman Tyler Palko — both almost entirely devoid of NFL experience.

“We’re going to see good competition,” Pioli said. “We have two good players competing really hard.”

“There have been times I’ve been in this situation and I think there’s been times where Todd’s been in this situation,” he added, “where sometimes it’s a veteran, sometimes it’s a young guy, and you figure it out. You get to a point if you’re comfortable, you stick where you are. If you’re not comfortable then you have to make a change.”

The Chiefs aren’t sure what to expect when they take the field Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the other sideline. After all, they haven’t even had a scrimmage yet.

Haley has been positive in his assessment of the Chiefs just about every time he steps to the podium for his daily press briefing, though. And while he rarely gets into specifics, Haley did acknowledge that the bizarre start to the season has made it more difficult than usual to evaluate the players he puts on the field.

“Yesterday had the feel of a training camp practice, and we did that intentionally,” he said. “We make decisions every day — do we want to walk through out in the sun or inside? The quick answer is inside to get out of the heat, but we want the guys to get acclimated to the heat because we are going to have some early games that are hot. If you’re ever robotic about it and set, ‘This is how we’re going to go about it,’ you’re going to miss something potentially.”

Pioli said that’s the key — to not miss anything. That’s why evaluation will continue through at least the first couple preseason games, and encompass everything from conditioning to attitude to the grasp of the playbook.

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