Chiefs’ Wiegmann to make 175th straight start
Friday, December 30, 2011
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Everything about Casey Wiegmann is decidedly old school.
The style of his facemask was in vogue about 20 years ago. He uses a pen-and-paper daily planner to keep appointments. And he prefers a simple wooden stool rather than plush seats that everyone else in the Kansas City Chiefs locker room collapses on after a hard practice.
Here’s one more thing that makes the veteran center a throwback: He doesn’t miss a play. Ever.
Wiegmann will make his 175th straight start when the Chiefs face the Denver Broncos on Sunday, along with adding to an iron man streak of consecutive snaps that already stands at 11,102. Both are the longest active streaks among NFL offensive linemen, dating back to the 2001 season.
“That’s a lot of snaps, and consecutive snaps. That’s pretty good,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “You get banged every down, and to be able to take that many snaps and still be out there playing, that’s an accomplishment. I don’t know who else can say that, but that’s an accomplishment.”
Not bad for an Iowa farm boy who wasn’t even drafted.
The Chiefs’ season finale may also be the finale for the 38-year-old Wiegmann, who contemplated retirement after last season. He won’t decide until after the season whether he’s finished, but one thing is clear: The decision won’t come with any fanfare.
“Just looking on the news and stuff, how Jason Taylor announced his retirement. You don’t have to do that,” Wiegmann said. “That’s just wanting attention on yourself. That’s not me at all.”
No, Wiegmann is a laconic overachiever who, at 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds, regularly goes against brutish defensive tackles who outweigh him by 50 pounds. And yet he’s been able to put together a stretch of sustained excellence that is rare in the modern NFL.
His streak of consecutive snaps started on Sept. 23, 2001, against the New York Giants, the first game the Chiefs played after the attacks of Sept. 11. It’s lasted through the presidency of George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, the rise of Facebook and Twitter — you won’t catch Wiegmann spouting off in 140 characters or fewer anytime soon — despite bumps, bruises and aches too numerous to count.
The streak nearly ended in 2005 with an injury to Wiegmann’s right knee, though he pushed through the pain. He admits that he’s spent more time in the training room this season than he can recall, his name showing up on the injury report with finger ailments and a calf injury.
Wiegmann may be the only one who ever thought he’d miss a down.
“It’s been a long year, fighting through aches and pains and injuries,” he said. “But like I’ve said before, I’m here to play football. It has to be something devastating to keep you out.”
Nobody knows whether Wiegmann’s consecutive snaps streak is a record; the league does not track such things. That means it’s virtually impossible to compare it to Brett Favre’s 297 regular-season games started at quarterback or Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 straight games in baseball.
One thing is clear: In an era of rapid turnover in the NFL, when season-ending injuries are common and orthopedists are kept on retainer, Wiegmann may be the last of a dying breed.
“The way things are in this league, I don’t think there are too many good examples like him,” said Chiefs running back Thomas Jones, who’s wrapping up his 12th season in the league.
“He’s pretty quiet,” Jones said. “He’s one of those guys who comes to work, does his job. You know what you’re going to get from him.”
Rookie center Rodney Hudson has a locker next to Wiegmann, tucked away in a back corner in the team’s practice facility. He’s been able to glean from Wiegmann the kind of wisdom that only comes with age and experience, from plying your trade in the trenches.
“He’s been a great help for me, and not only me, but other guys also,” said Hudson, who is being groomed as Wiegmann’s successor. “His approach, the way he plays, the things he’s seen, things that have happened — he’s been teaching me what I need to do.”
Wiegmann spent two seasons during his streak with the Broncos before returning to Kansas City this season, landing his only appearance in the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season. And now the end could come after a game against Denver.
Wiegmann still skirts the topic of retirement, even as he plans for the future.
He’s started a business with one of his friends back in Iowa, where they’re purchasing farmland and then leasing it out. He wants to give small-scale and independent farmers a chance to succeed in an age of large-scale operations run by corporations.
In that respect, Wiegmann stays true to his humble nature, which has served him well in the NFL.
“I’ve learned a lot of stuff form a lot of great football players, been taught a lot of great things through my years, family values and everything else, and you kind of take that with you wherever you go,” he said. “You take a lot of it to heart. Whatever I can do, I do. Hopefully I can pass some of that on to a younger player and they can run with it, too.”
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