KANSAS CITY – Quarterback Trent Green became one of the Chiefs’ first players, coaches or executives to speak with 11-time Pro Bowler Willie Roaf since the left tackle announced his retirement.
Green, who spoke to Roaf this week, said he made sure he didn’t use a hard-sell approach on Roaf, the 13-year veteran who made the surprising announcement on the eve of camp.
“Willie deserves to go out however he wants to go out. He has earned that,” said Green, whose conversation with Roaf lasted about 15-20 minutes. “I just wanted to tell him that if he changed his mind and wanted to come back, he would be welcomed back with open arms around here. We’d all love to have him back.”
Green said Roaf left open the door for a return, reiterating some of the things he has said in radio and television interviews about returning in a year or two if his body starts to feel better. At that point, the 36-year-old Green did a little nudging.
“I did say to him, ‘I was thinking more about this year,’” Green said.
Up to now, Roaf has not returned calls from team president Carl Peterson, coach Herm Edwards or teammates such as tight end Tony Gonzalez. To Peterson, Roaf’s decision was an odd change of direction.
“Willie came into my office early in the offseason, enthusiastic about this year and telling me, ‘Mr. Peterson, you have to re-sign Will Shields and get him to come back next year,’” Peterson said, imitating Roaf’s deep voice. “Then he tells us he’s retiring and I can’t even get him on the phone. … We all love Willie around here and we want him back. It’s just a really strange thing when I look at the whole story.”
The Chiefs did get Shields to come back and would have returned three Pro Bowl offensive linemen to what is one of the best lines in the NFL. Even if Roaf were to return now, Edwards thinks he might not be ready to play until after the bye week, which is the weekend of Sept. 24 – three weeks into the season.
“I just don’t think he could really be ready to play in the opener, not at this point,” Edwards said.
• Roaf’s immediate replacement is Kyle Turley, who is returning after missing two years because of back problems. Turley looks to be a reasonable facsimile of his old self, minus roughly 30 pounds and without some of the anger that defined the early part of his career. In fact, Turley has been such a model citizen so far that Peterson referred to what a good “mentor” Turley has been for second-year offensive tackle Will Svitek.
Wait a second, Kyle Turley is a “mentor?” The guy who once ripped the helmet off the head of a Jets player in the middle of a pile and pranced around a stadium with it? The guy who once nearly got into a fight with former St. Louis coach Mike Martz? That guy is a mentor?
Peterson smiled and chuckled.
“Yeah, I’m serious. Kyle has come in here and showed Svitek and some of the other guys the things he knows and has really tried to help them in an open and honest way,” Peterson said.
Fair enough. As for his playing ability, the 6-foot-5 Turley still looks athletic enough to make all the moves necessary to play.
Turley originally wanted to come back as a tight end. He went through a tryout camp with the Dolphins in May, where he showed nice athletic ability and was down to approximately 265 pounds. He then came to the Chiefs, who first wanted him to play right tackle after the sudden retirement of John Welbourn. Then Turley moved to left tackle at the start of camp after the Roaf news.
Turley has gotten back to approximately 280 pounds and Edwards said he doesn’t expect Turley to get much over 285 because of concerns about the back. Turley played at roughly 315 pounds during the first part of his career. The reduced bulk has left Turley a little more vulnerable to being bull rushed.
Then again, playing left tackle might be easier from that perspective because Turley won’t be facing the bulkier defensive ends who normally play on the other side. Instead, he’ll deal with some of the lighter ends and edge pass rushers, such as Dwight Freeney and Jason Taylor.
• Losing Roaf and Welbourn will obviously put a crimp in the line, but running back Larry Johnson said he doesn’t expect much of a dropoff from last season, when he rushed for 1,750 yards and took off after a neck injury to Priest Holmes. With Holmes expected to retire, Johnson will be the showcase back again.
“We changed a little bit of what we did last year when (Roaf) got hurt and missed a few games. We ran more inside stuff, but it wasn’t really that different,” Johnson said, referring to more plays behind the work of Shields, right guard Brian Waters and center Casey Wiegmann.
• Defensive tackle Ryan Sims, the No. 6 overall pick in 2002, continues to be a huge disappointment for the Chiefs. He is currently running with the second-team defense and his attitude around the team hasn’t been particularly good, according to several people.
This offseason, the Chiefs hired defensive line coach Tim Krumrie, one of the more high-strung individuals in the NFL coaching ranks. If Krumrie can’t inspire Sims, Sims may be a lost cause.