Now in his 11th season (and with his third team), defensive end Carlos Dunlap sees an unexpected advantage in playing for the Kansas City Chiefs: time for an actual vacation during the team’s Week 8 bye week.
“We didn’t have a little time off,” Dunlap remarked to reporters before Wednesday’s practice. “We had a very good, nice bye week. I’ve never had one like that. That was phenomenal.”
Having an entire week off was different than his previous stops with the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks. He believes head coach Andy Reid’s decision to give his players some rest will benefit the team as it prepares to face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football.
“Traditionally, it’s been like Wednesday to Sunday,” Dunlap explained. “We really needed it, too — because we’ve been working hard. Training camp was the hardest training camp that I’ve ever seen and been a part of, so I guess that was his way of saying, ‘You guys have been grinding out. We’re sitting at 5-2. Let’s look at what we did to get to 5-2 — and how we could’ve been 7-0. You guys get away from football, take care of your bodies and come back and get ready for this night game.’”
The players did not know of the extended bye until after the team’s 44-23 domination of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7.
“They kept it a secret because obviously, the focus is the game,” the 33-year old recalled. “Any time you know the schedule for the bye week, people start planning the bye week before the game. We focused on the game, took care of business — and [Reid] announced it.”
Through seven games, Dunlap has played in a rotational role, only twice getting more than half of the defensive snaps. He may see more extensive action on Sunday because fellow edge rusher Frank Clark is serving a two game suspension — and defensive line coach Joe Cullen always wants players to be ready to step in.
“Obviously Frank’s been our starter,” Dunlap said, “but Cullen preaches everyone who’s up is a starter. Step in — no drop-off — you’ve still got a job to do as well. Hold it down until Frank comes back — because you’ve seen what he did in his last game. He’s going to come in hot and ready and fresh to do even more of that. We’re going to take care of our business and hold it down for him.”
He does not anticipate a problem with taking on a larger role, citing his many seasons as a dependable starter.
“My whole career, I’m used to carrying the load,” Dunlap declared. “Teams now? They look at guys and try to limit their roles so that they have availability for later in the season. I’ve always tried to do whatever it took — [and] invested in myself to make sure that I was available for whenever the team called on me.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen me on the sideline. Regardless of when I’m playing, you see me constantly doing something to stay warm or loose — or a routine to keep my body ready for when it’s my turn to go in.”
Should he see extra snaps in the next two weeks, Dunlap will have an increased chance of reaching a milestone: 100 career sacks. He sits at 98 through the season’s first seven games.
“I’ve had a couple of games now with chances to do it,” he noted. “We want to get that done — obviously — so we can get over that hump. That’s not my sole goal, but that’s a milestone — and something that I told my dad I was going to do. It’s important to me to get that done.
“Obviously, I need like 108 or 110 to be in that legendary-type conversation. Those are real goals. I promised my dad I was going to do a hundred. Losing him this year, getting that hundred early in the season is important to me.”
Carlos Dunlap Sr. died in January after being struck by a car.
As Dunlap and his teammates prepare for the visiting Titans, there is some question about which quarterback they may face. Rookie Malik Willis started for the Tennessee in their Week 8 victory over the Houston Texans after an ankle injury kept starter Ryan Tannehill out of the game. Tannehill was listed as limited on Wednesday’s initial injury report.
But Dunlap isn’t concerned about the uncertainty of Sunday’s matchup.
“It makes it harder because you don’t know,” he admitted. “Obviously, they have different game plans for different guys. But you kind of have a good idea of what they like to feature with whomever they get. Once you know who it is, you go from there.”