Chiefs, Bowe have moved on from suspension — before it’s been served

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. —

Let’s get the negative out of the way first.

Dwayne Bowe screwed up badly. Again.

Even though his marijuana possession charge from a November 2013 traffic arrest was later amended to “defective equipment and littering,” Bowe’s guilty plea drew punishment under the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The league announced Friday that Bowe would be suspended for Kansas City’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 against Tennessee.

Bowe already was banned for four games in 2009 under the performance-enhancing drug program for what his agent said was a positive test caused by a diuretic for weight loss. Though this latest misstep generated a lesser NFL punishment, it could prove far more costly to Bowe personally. Profootballtalk.com reported that the suspension likely voided the guaranteed payment aspect of $10.25 million Bowe is due in base salary over the next two seasons. After being designated a franchise player in 2012, Bowe signed a five-year, $56 million contract extension during the 2013 offseason.

The good news for Bowe is that Kansas City has shown no inclination to cut ties with him or his $8.75 million salary for 2014. Coach Andy Reid was well aware that Bowe could be suspended when I was at Chiefs training camp last Thursday, and that didn’t temper his effusive praise of the eight-year veteran.

“I’m a big Dwayne Bowe fan because he brings energy to your team,” Reid said following his team’s final practice at Missouri Western State University. “For such a big-time receiver, he is so unselfish it’s crazy.

“He’s got this huge personality. He’s a treat to be around.”

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was just as complimentary.

“He’s such a great team player, especially for a wideout,” said Smith, referring to the monster egos that often accompany star players at the position. “We ask him to do a lot. He comes in and blocks. He doesn’t care how many catches he has as long as we’re winning.

“It’s fun to be around him. He really sets a great example for a lot of guys on our team about selflessness.”

Bowe’s stats have slipped the past two years, but he’s gotten in better shape in anticipation of a bouceback season.

The best way Bowe, 29, can thank Reid and Smith for such kind words – and make amends for the selfishness he showed by putting himself in position to get arrested and suspended – is to once again become a game-changer after two straight seasons with fewer than 60 catches and 900 receiving yards.

Hints of a return to the Bowe of 2010 and 2011 are already evident during the preseason. The first is Bowe’s stellar conditioning and weight, which was a problematic area earlier in his career.

“I always work like this. I just have never been this thin and you can say in shape,” Bowe said before the suspension was announced. “With this West Coast offense, you have to be in shape. You have to be able to move in different positions and play even the quick routes Coach Reid wants.

“I just made it my goal to come in and be dominant in whatever they want me to do.”

To that end, Bowe is working extensively to reduce dropped passes even while nursing an injured finger that Reid described as “mangled.” Bowe said he is benefiting from snaring tennis balls rather than footballs after every practice to improve his focus.

“I’ve taken it into consideration to really, really take heed in the tough catches and the ones I didn’t make last year and the year before to actually look (the football) all the way in,” Bowe said. “As a receiver, everyone has good hands. But it’s that split second you take your hand away – boom! — that’s when you get a drop.”

The bond between Bowe and Smith also continues to strengthen. Bowe said he notices significant growth from when Smith first joined the Chiefs last year via trade from San Francisco.

“The first offseason you’ve got to get to know (the quarterback),” Bowe said. “The second one you know exactly what he wants, where he wants you to be and how he wants you to run (routes).

“The chemistry has definitely picked up. It’s not perfect, but that’s what training camp and practice is for. We’re out here running around, moving fast and making plays. That’s all you could ask for.”

Bowe finished the 2013 season with a pedestrian 57 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns.  Smith, though, points to Bowe’s increased production in the second half of last season – including a monster eight-catch, 150-yard playoff outing against Indianapolis – as a sign the duo is just scratching the surface.

“I think a little bit of (the 2013 dip) was all of us kind of getting a feel for each other,” Smith said. “I think Coach was even getting a feel for what (Bowe) was capable of.

“He had a ton of production moving around – inside, outside, motioning him — and finding matchups because he is so unique. He’s bigger and stronger than most corners. You get him matched on a linebacker or safety, that’s an advantage for us as well. You saw that as the season went on – us finding a way to move him around and get him in space.”

Bowe will be eligible to play in the final two preseason games, including Sunday night’s matchup against Carolina on FOX. He issued a statement Friday apologizing for the suspension.

“I made an error in judgment,” Bowe said. “I take responsibility for my mistake, and it will not happen again.”

It can’t if Bowe truly wants to redeem himself.

Alex Marvez and co-host Gil Brandt conducted all Chiefs interviews on SiriusXM NFL Radio.