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Kansas City Chiefs hope to reset for start of offseason program

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 10:53 p.m. CDT
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope, center, is congratulated by teammates Mike Vrabel (50) and Tony Moeaki (81) after catching a two-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter of Sunday's game in St. Louis.

KANSAS CITY — After a season of turmoil, one marred by injuries to some of their best players and the firing of the head coach, the Kansas City Chiefs are ready for a reset.

The Chiefs began their offseason program Monday, while simultaneously preparing for next week's draft, which will give general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel an opportunity to fill a couple more holes that have developed since last season's 7-9 record.

"We need depth at a number of places," Pioli said during a break in meetings. "We learned last year, unfortunately, your depth and your front-line players can change in a hurry."

The first significant loss was tight end Tony Moeaki, who didn't even make it through the preseason before going down with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry followed him to injured reserve with the same injury in the season opener, and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles gave Kansas City a potent 1-2-3 punch in the rehab room when he tore the same ligament in the same knee in Week 2.

Add to that the loss of quarterback Matt Cassel to an injured throwing hand midway through the season, and it was little wonder that things spiraled out of control.

Todd Haley was fired in December and Crennel was elevated to interim coach, the interim tag lifted after he somehow got the Chiefs into playoff contention. They weren't eliminated until their second-to-last game, when they lost in overtime to the Oakland Raiders.

The spirited finish to the season, which included a win at playoff-bound Denver, gave folks in Kansas City at least some reason to believe that brighter days are still ahead.

"You want to try to make your team better, and that's our job, to try to make our team better by bringing in good players," Crennel said Monday afternoon. "When you win, everybody feels better about it, and this is a competitive business. They like competition."

The Chiefs have certainly brought in their share of players through free agency, fostering that competition, but their biggest additions may simply be getting everybody healthy.

Moeaki, Berry and Charles spent most of last season working out together, since they were only a week or two apart in their rehab programs. All of them are expected to participate in some form of offseason workouts — Charles has tweeted that he's ready to go — and could be largely up to speed by the time the Chiefs begin organized team activities next month.

They'll be joined by a bunch of new additions to the offense.

The biggest splash in free agency was the signing of offensive tackle Eric Winston, who will be counted on to stabilize a line that struggled to control the pass rush.

Pioli also signed former Browns running back Peyton Hillis to provide some depth behind Charles — he's expected to be an upgrade over the aging Thomas Jones and journeyman Jackie Battle, who split most of the carries last season when the Chiefs' sparkplug was lost to injury.

Kevin Boss was also signed to provide some insurance behind Moeaki, who has a history of injury problems. He's also considered an upgrade over the departed Leonard Pope.

"We'll find out in the fall how good of a job we've done," Pioli said. "Teams that have great offseasons — great offseason grades — that doesn't always translate into good seasons."

There are still holes on the Chiefs roster, particularly in the defensive backfield and along the defensive line, and those are two areas Pioli expects to address in the draft.

He also wouldn't rule out trading up or down from the No. 11 pick, and broached the possibility of choosing a quarterback early — Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill has been linked to Kansas City, though it is widely expected that he will be taken in the first 10 picks.

"Everyone on this football team knows there's going to be competition," Pioli said. "If someone's afraid of competition in this business, or in life, it doesn't make them a bad person or a weak person. It doesn't make them the right person for our situation."


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