KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first thing Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith did when he saw left tackle Branden Albert arrive at the team’s training facility?
Smith rushed over to greet and welcome him.
“You bet I did,” Smith said with a huge smile. “Your left tackle is your best friend. You bet I welcomed him. It’s great to have him here.”
That Albert arrived at the team’s first organized team activity (OTA) on Tuesday was big news and a relief to many, Albert included, considering the saga that had become his life in March and April.
It all started when the Chiefs appeared poised to put the franchise tag on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and then work on an extended deal for Albert. But the opposite scenario unfolded – Bowe got the big, long-term deal, and Albert was “stuck” with the franchise tag for $9.8 million.
Then whispers started circulating that the Chiefs would use their No. 1 overall pick on a left tackle, likely Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan. And more whispers suggested the Chiefs might consider moving Albert to right tackle to accommodate Fisher.
That’s when Albert apparently had had enough, and responded on his Twitter account when asked if he was strictly a left tackle by Tweeting, “You damn right!” The message was clear: Albert wasn’t budging off his left tackle spot to accommodate anyone.
Soon after, though, Albert deleted the tweet, as well as his Twitter account. But the harsh feelings seemed to remain.
Albert skipped a voluntary workout with the team, and when the draft neared in late April, he got permission from Chiefs general manager John Dorsey to talk to the Miami Dolphins about being traded.
It seemed Albert’s days as a Chief were nearing the end.
But the draft came and went, no trade was realized, and Albert remained a Chief.
Then came the phone call from Chiefs coach Andy Reid over a week ago that apparently convinced Albert he indeed was wanted in Kansas City, and that he indeed would be the left tackle.
So, what was Reid’s message to Albert?
“He just wanted to drag me in here and kick my butt,” Albert said Tuesday. “That’s what he wanted to do. He said I was going to be the left tackle, and get in here and work and that was pretty much it. So, here I am.”
End of story, at least in Albert’s mind. To his credit, he stood before reporters Tuesday to address his situation but, perhaps understandably, he was ready to move on from the last two months.
When pressed about his true feelings about the Chiefs’ organization, Albert said, “I’m just happy to be back. I’m here now and not worried about what happened in the past.”
Is he over his anger toward the franchise?
“I was never disgruntled,” he said. “It’s all in the past. I’m here to work.”
After almost becoming a Dolphin a few weeks ago, did it feel weird to be back with the Chiefs?
“I don’t know how close I was (to being a Dolphin),” he said. “Doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”
Does he regret his tweet, and then asking for a trade?
“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “I realize I made mistakes. I know I said some things I shouldn’t have. But all I know is I’m here.”
Does he still expect a long-term deal?
“That’s something my representative and John Dorsey are working on or talking about,” he said. “I’m just here to play the game.”
Has he been open to talking to Fisher?
“I’ve talked to him a lot,” Albert said. “Why would I not interact with Eric Fisher? You guys who have known me for the past five years know the type of person I am. I’m here to help him or anyone else to help the team.
“If I don’t … hey, I’m the old guy on the offensive line now and I’m here to help everyone else.”
And how is his back, which developed spasms last season and kept him out of several games?
“My back felt pretty good,” he said. “No problems.”
As for his performance on the field Tuesday, Albert said he was a bit rusty but that he got better deeper into practice.
“I thought Branden came back in good shape,” Reid said. “We threw a lot of things at him in a hurry and I think he held his own. We were working at a fast pace and Branden did just fine. Glad to have him here.”
Smith also endorsed Albert’s work on the field, which apparently meant a lot to Albert.
“I like him,” Albert said of Smith. “He’s got a big smile. Good guy. He said he was happy to have me here and that was a nice vote of confidence.”
And here, back with the Chiefs, is right where Albert wants to be.
“I wanted to be here the whole time,” he said. “That’s the God’s honest truth.”