Training camp has begun. As usual, optimism reigns supreme. Other than Tony Gonzalez and Ryan Sims, everyone has reported. A few of the veterans have not been able to practice so far while they recuperate from injury, but that's OK because the rookies get a better chance to strut their stuff. Get out the rose-colored glasses, put them on, and enjoy the first 2-3 weeks of camp because reality is going to creep in eventually. There are a lot questions that need to be answered and those answers will go a long way toward telling us if the Chiefs are ready to contend for the playoffs again.
The first question, of course, is, when are the Chiefs going to get Tony Gonzalez and Ryan Sims signed and in camp? A veteran like Gonzalez can miss some time without adverse effect, but his negotiations with the Chiefs are rapidly going nowhere. Tony and his agent took a calculated risk by rejecting the multi-year deal the Chiefs put on the table. Then Gonzalez tried out for the Miami Heat in an effort to make the Chiefs think he's going to bolt to the NBA. Gonzalez ended up not getting much playing time and injured his ankle before quitting the Heat but still kept spouting his "I want to play in the NBA and the NFL" mantra. Now, Carl Peterson has pulled the multi-year deal off the table until Gonzalez drops the NBA ploy. This is a poker game for high stakes and Peterson is in no mood for bluffing. Tony is now left with four choices: sign the one-year franchise tender, hold out, drop the ridiculous NBA ploy, or go sit on some NBA team's bench. In the mean time, the offense suffers. Sims is a rookie and needs to be in camp soon. The longer he's out, the less chance there is that he will be able to contribute significantly this season, which means the defense suffers. Let's hope that contract negotiations speed up now that Albert Haynesworth has signed with the Titans
The situation at wide receiver becomes more critical the longer Tony Gonzalez sits out. Other than Johnnie Morton, there are no proven receivers. I still have doubts about Eddie Kennison. Snoop Minnis can't practice until the broken foot bone heals. Sylvester Morris is coming off a torn ACL and it is still affecting him. The rest of the candidates are street free agent rookies, refugees from the CFL & NFL-Europe, or young veterans who haven't exactly set the world on fire. There isn't a set of tinted glasses on this planet that could make this situation look good. However, the situation is better than it was last year. At the very least, any improvement should cut down on the number of interceptions Trent Green threw last year.
Even if Ryan Sims signs soon, there are still many questions about the defensive line. The middle of the line was soft against the run last season, the defensive ends, especially Eric Hicks, couldn't apply pressure on opposing QBs, and none of the players showed an ability to control the line of scrimmage. Sims and fellow rookie, Eddie Freeman, may be able to stiffen the middle, but the rest of the linemen need to step up their game.
Linebacker is also a concern. As much as I like Mike Maslowski, he simply does not have Donnie Edward's speed and this may come back to haunt the team before the season is over. Marvcus Patton and Lew Bush won't win many foot races either. The reserves don't exactly inspire confidence, although Glenn Cadrez is a decent back up.
Whether William Bartee is ready to start at cornerback or not, may prove to be the most important aspect of training camp. If Bartee isn't ready, watch out, because Ray Crockett is too old and too slow to be a starter anymore. If Warfield and Bartee play up to their potential, the Chiefs can use Crockett as the nickel back. The reserves aren't much, but one needs to emerge from the pack and show he can handle the dime back duties.
The coaching staff will have earned their paychecks if they can find solutions for all these problems.