|11-02-2006, 05:04 AM||#1|
Chiefs > Broncos
Join Date: Apr 2004
Kennison finds comfort
Kennison finds comfort
Receiver has become a go-to guy for the Chiefs since he went away from the team that drafted him.
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
The St. Louis Rams won’t recognize wide receiver Eddie Kennison when they play the Chiefs on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
It took Kennison several years and five different teams, but he finally became the player the Rams hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round in 1996.
St. Louis gave up on Kennison after three mostly disappointing seasons. He was traded by Dick Vermeil, then the Rams’ coach, and bounced around before finally landing with the Chiefs and Vermeil again in 2001.
Kennison hasn’t turned out to be one of the NFL’s premier receivers, but is still a dependable player and a valued part. He has been the Chiefs’ leading wide receiver since his arrival. He reached the wide-receiving benchmark of 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and has a chance to get there again.
“It just didn’t go real well for him there,” Vermeil said. “He was real immature at the time. His focus and concentration weren’t what they are today. He approaches things with more commitment now.
“He’s a better player today and a better person. He’s better in every category.”
The Chiefs recently rewarded Kennison with the new contract he wanted since the end of last season. The key terms are incentives that will probably provide him with an extra $950,000 this season and about $1.5 million next year.
Next year’s money would come in the form of a roster bonus due in March. It also will force the Chiefs to think about how much they really want Kennison.
Coach Herm Edwards wouldn’t commit to Kennison for next season but the Chiefs have no other dependable wide receiver.
“He’s a very dependable guy,” Edwards said. “You can trust him. When Dante (Hall) was down, he went in there and caught punts and it wasn’t a problem. He knows what he’s supposed to do. He knows how to find the holes, especially in zones. He still had the speed to run by guys.”
Kennison in January will turn 34, which is ancient for NFL wide receivers. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He had six catches for 132 yards in last week’s win over Seattle, including a 51-yard grab on the winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
“I look at him like Rod Smith and Tim Brown and that kind of guy,” Edwards said. “They stay in shape year round. They take care of themselves. They recover very well. They know how to play.
“I don’t worry about him. You saw the way he played in this last game. He doesn’t look 34 years old to me.”
To Kennison, his time with the Rams seems that long ago. St. Louis was dismal in his seasons there, winning just 15 games.
The Rams dumped Kennison and hardly suffered. They already had Isaac Bruce and quickly added Torry Holt and became football’s Greatest Show on Turf and a wide receiver’s dream. St. Louis won one Super Bowl and played in another, all the while setting offensive records.
“It definitely crossed my mind what would have happened if I stayed,” Kennison said. “I’m sure I would have fit in. Dick Vermeil didn’t think so.”
After giving it some more thought, Kennison changed his mind.
“I wasn’t mature,” he said. “I wasn’t serious enough about football. It’s like the old saying, ‘If I had known then what I know now . . .’ Who knows how it turned out? But I don’t regret anything because I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“This is the happiest I’ve been in my career.”
That’s with the Chiefs, but only after stops of one season or less in New Orleans, Chicago and Denver. Playing for five teams in less than five seasons made him think about the course of his career.
“I got tired of moving all my stuff,” he said. “It may not seem like much, but a lot of that time, I was my team’s leading receiver. That’s what happened with New Orleans and Chicago both. It wasn’t much in those places but the circumstances sometimes weren’t very good.”
A reunion with Vermeil, who ditched Kennison a few years earlier, seemed unlikely at first to revive Kennison’s career.
But Vermeil’s nurturing ways worked wonders in Kansas City when they couldn’t in St. Louis.
“There’s no correlation between a rookie year and maturity,” Vermeil said. “All of a sudden you’ve got money, you’ve got cars and all of that kind of stuff. It can throw you off for a while. Sooner or later, you get back to what you are. That’s what Eddie’s doing right now. I watched the game the other day and he played super. That was a great catch he made on the last drive, but I’ve seen him make it before.
“I don’t know why he went from team to team. I know he’s where he belongs and he’s with the people he belongs with and the organization he belongs with. He plays better when he knows people believe in him and he can get all the support he needs. He wasn’t ready to do that early in his career.”