New-look Chiefs ready for fresh start in 2013

The question wasn’t even fully asked before Eric Berry shut it


”I’m not talking about last year,” the Pro Bowl safety


Doesn’t matter whether the query had to do with the 14 losses

that the Kansas City Chiefs endured in 2012, or the countless

off-the-field distractions. Heck, it could’ve been about some

trivial issue such as the length of practices, Berry wasn’t going

to bite.

Really, there’s not much reason to anymore.

After one of the most dismal seasons in franchise history, the

Chiefs have hit refresh. They have a new general manager in John

Dorsey, a new coach in Andy Reid, and a new quarterback in Alex

Smith leading a new-look team into its season opener Sept. 8 at


”We’ve got standards for ourselves,” Berry said, ”so we have

a lot of stuff to prove to ourselves. We’re not worried about

outside opinions or factors or anything like that. We’re just

focused on coming in, jelling as a unit, a team, and just taking

from there.”

That’s been a tall order this offseason. The Chiefs had more

than 50 newcomers on the 90-man roster that reported to training

camp, and just five of the 22 on their two-deep were in the same

spot as they were for the final game of last season.

So whether it’s Berry trying to learn how to work with new

defensive backs Sean Smith or Dunta Robinson, or Smith trying to

get on the same page with wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie

Avery, the eight months that have transpired since last season have

been all about work.

”I think every team in the NFL has positive expectations right

now, every single one,” Smith said. ”It’s a fresh start. It’s a

new beginning for everybody. It’s what team is going to put in the

work and take the steps necessary to get better?”

The Chiefs clearly believe they’ve put in the work, but there

are dozens of other factors that could dictate whether they have a

bounce-back season. Here are five more:

SMITH AS A STAR: The Chiefs’ first major move in their

rebuilding job was to trade with the 49ers for Smith, finally

stabilizing the quarterback position for the first time in years.

Smith was considered a bust as a No. 1 overall pick for the first

five years of his career, and then emerged as a star under 49ers

coach Jim Harbaugh. The Chiefs are betting that Smith was a

late-bloomer rather than a product of Harbaugh’s offense.

”Listen, I thought Jim did a nice job with him out in San

Francisco,” Reid said, ”but here, everybody’s on board. I’m

asking him to do a ton of things and he’s handling it.”

CHARLES IN CHARGE: Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles expects

to be utilized the same way that LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook

were used by Reid in Philadelphia – both were as dangerous catching

passes out of the backfield as they were taking handoffs. Charles

ran for more than 1,500 yards last season, despite missing most of

the previous year with a torn left ACL. But he’s shown plenty of

ability to catch the ball, too.

”They’ve seen how athletic I am and I can do more than just

running the ball,” he said.

ATTACKING DEFENSE: Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has promised

an attacking defense this year, and that’s good news to players

weary of their previous bend-but-don’t-break style. The Chiefs tied

for last in the NFL with seven interceptions last year. They only

managed 27 sacks, tied for 29th out of 32 teams, and only recovered

six fumbles all season.

”I definitely think this team has underachieved,” cornerback

Brandon Flowers said. ”We always had talent, but the wins didn’t

add up. But that’s the past. This is a fresh start.”

BIG PICKS ON BIG UGLIES: The Chiefs have invested high draft

picks on their offensive line the past few years, and that includes

spending the No. 1 overall pick in April on Eric Fisher. The rookie

out of Central Michigan is expected to start at right tackle

opposite Branden Albert, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2008.

Center Rodney Hudson and guard Jeff Allen were each second-round

picks, and fellow guard Jon Asamoah went in the third round. Their

ability to protect Smith and pave the way for Charles will be


REJUVENATED REID: Reid had a tumultuous season of his own in

Philadelphia last year. Along with family issues, the Eagles went

just 4-12 – his worst finish in 14 years as their coach. Reid was

shown the door after the season, but it was in many ways a mutual

decision. Reid was eager for a fresh start and Chiefs chairman

Clark Hunt was happy to supply it in Kansas City.

”I sincerely mean this, he’s having more fun,” Dorsey said.

”I see a more vibrant person – I see Andy, the coach I used to

know. He’s over here doing receivers. He’s over here with the tight

ends. He’s working with the tackles. He’s jumping the quarterback,

and that’s good.”


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