ST. JOSEPH — Anthony Toribio might have been tempted to pack his bags in the spring and head out of Kansas City, and if so, it would have made sense.
The Chiefs had just drafted Dontari Poe, a 346-pound man with uncommon athletic ability, in the first round and that move figured only to push Toribio even further down the depth chart at nose tackle. Toribio stuck around and the Chiefs, who return to the training camp practice field today after taking a day off, are thankful he did. Toribio surfaced to the top of the depth chart while the Chiefs bring Poe along slowly.
Obviously, hes a great player but theyre still giving me a chance to compete, Toribio said. Thats all you can ask for. I have a chance.
Theres also a good chance Toribio could be the starter on Sept. 9 when the Chiefs open the season against Atlanta at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs could promote Poe to the starting lineup any time but appear content for the time being to use him mostly on obvious passing downs.
That would leave most first and second downs for Toribio.
The Chiefs will make the move with Poe when they believe hes ready. Even Toribio marveled at his physical gifts.
Hes the strongest, most athletic lineman Ive ever been around, Toribio said. Hes a monster. But learning our scheme is hard to do. Were all trying to help him, but its hard. Hes picking it up fast. Its just a matter of time.
But it may be selling Toribio short to say the timing has everything to do with Poe. Toribio was in contention for playing time last year before a preseason knee injury set him back.
Hes reading all the blocks and showing good technique and (beating) the blocks hes supposed to (beat), coach Romeo Crennel said of Toribio. He did a really nice job last year. If he hadnt been hurt, I think he would have been competing for the starting position.
After missing some practice time and exhibition games, the Chiefs placed Toribio on their practice squad, where he stayed all season. He received daily individual instruction from defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant, who played 14 seasons in the NFL.
It really helped me to be able to work with him on the side, Toribio said. Thats whats helping me out right now, keeping me confident. So at first, I looked at going back on the practice squad as a bummer. Ive been there before and I didnt want to go back. But it gave me another year to understand and learn and get more coaching.
The teacher and pupil reviewed the necessary techniques every day at practice.
Wed emphasize the fundamentals over and over again, Pleasant said. We saw constant improvement from him as the season went on.
Even after drafting Poe, the Chiefs werent ready to give upon Toribio. He played small college football at Carson-Newman and bounced around in the NFL from Miami to Green Bay before landing with the Chiefs two years ago.
Big guys often take longer to develop than smaller players. At 315 pounds, Toribio qualifies as a big guy.
The big guys, they play a position where the discipline thats required to play the way I want them to play, it takes a little bit more time, Crennel said. I have to understand that and give them more time. But if theyre showing me theyre doing it the way I want it done and theyre making some progress, even though it might be slight and it might not be jumping out at everybody else, then Im encouraged the guy might be able to help us at some point.
Perhaps the time has come for Toribio.
Youre never going to sell yourself short or say you dont have a chance, he said. Things have kind of gone down a windy road for me but the opportunity appeared again. Now its up to me to take full advantage of it.