The loss of Smith wouldn’t help the Chiefs no matter when it happened, but the timing of the diagnosis of a lacerated spleen also hurts. Smith practiced two days this week, leaving only Friday for backup Chase Daniel. So not only are the Chiefs going with a quarterback who had taken only a handful of snaps and thrown one pass in two games but one who didn’t get many practice snaps.
Quarterbacks would be faring a whole lot better against Justin Houston this season if they avoided him as deftly as the Chiefs’ star linebacker dodges reporters. It doesn’t matter that Houston is the NFL’s sack leader heading into the final week of the regular season. Nor does it matter that he’s just two sacks shy of 20, which would match Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas for the single-season franchise record.
Edwards, now an ESPN analyst, was technically the last NFL coach to be traded. In 2006, the New York Jets agreed to let Edwards out of his contract so that he could replace Vermeil with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets haggled for a bit but settled for a fourth-round draft pick. "I finally got a chance to show I was worth a draft pick," cracked Edwards, who went undrafted as a college senior and then played 10 years in the NFL.
As Wilson has developed, Prunty has seen some similarities to one of the more promising young defensive ends in football. He compares Wilson to former Auburn defensive end Dee Ford — a 6-2, 252-pound first-round draft pick this year of the Kansas City Chiefs — in terms of speed, size and pass-rush ability. Pretty high praise for a guy who didn't draw many second looks from major conference schools until after his senior season of high school.
"I love playing the game," said Hali, one of four Chiefs selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday night. "I put my body in a position to be able to play and compete every year. As long as my body is able to function the way I like for it to, and I can play at a high level, I’ll be around … wherever."
The Chiefs have operated inefficiently down the stretch. After ranking near the top of the NFL with a 48.0 third-down percentage after 10 games, they've converted only 25.0 percent in the last five. They've also committed seven turnovers in the last four games after having 10 through their first 11. "We just have to play as a team. Sometimes we find a way to play as a unit, sometimes we don't," said linebacker Tamba Hali, who leads the team with three forced fumbles. "Most of these games we lose, it's not because the other team is whipping us. We shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes and we don't know how to bounce back from it."
Six of the past nine Super Bowl champions didn't earn a first-round bye. Three of those teams (2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, 2010 Green Bay Packers) were wild-card entries who had to take the long road to glory while playing exclusively on the road. Bottom line? Getting hot trumps being dominant throughout the season.
"We don't tackle live in practice," said Bob Sutton, defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. "I don't think anybody in the league does." The reasons for that are understandable. Tougher restrictions on full-contact drills have taken hold at all levels of football, mostly spurred by a heightened awareness of the devastating long-term damage that concussions can cause.
Chris Ballard, Kansas City Chiefs, director of player personnel -- He'll be a hot commodity. Ballard is bright and personable, with a background in scouting and coaching. He spent 12 years in the Chicago Bears' organization before joining the Chiefs' front office in 2013. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came after him last year, but he withdrew from consideration because he wasn't going to have final say on personnel.
His sack numbers are down, on pace to be the lowest in several seasons. But by many measures, outside linebacker Tamba Hali is still a useful player for the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium could be Hali’s last for the Chiefs after nine seasons.