KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Chris Chambers had achieved something rare in his career. He was released last week by San Diego, and that was the end of a good run.
Chambers, now a Chiefs wide receiver, and quarterback Philip Rivers had played together for more than two seasons. They knew each other's tendencies and strengths. They had learned the boundaries of trust. They knew where not to go, too. Time together does that, especially for a wide receiver who has played now for three teams and with, he estimated Thursday, a dozen quarterbacks in nine seasons.
"I kind of was getting used to Philip a little bit," Chambers said. "I at least got two years with one quarterback."
There's a new one now to learn. Chambers said he and Matt Cassel are getting to know each other, but there's no doubting that both are at the front end of a relationship that could end anytime and will be tested in difficult and constant ways. Cassel hasn't had much consistency on his end, either. Since training camp, Kansas City has added five new wide receivers — all of whom have had to prepare, adjust and play at a moment's notice. Some did not pass their tests, and they were quickly given up on.
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Chambers is the latest wide receiver for Cassel to learn, and Cassel is the newest quarterback for Chambers to learn.
"You'd love to develop some rapport and a relationship with your receivers," Cassel said Thursday.
It helped last Sunday, when Cassel and Chambers connected for two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter. Chambers didn't know the terminology for his routes. Cassel had to translate. Somehow, it worked.
After that game, Chiefs coach Todd Haley told reporters that the time needed to establish a relationship between a quarterback and a wide receiver is an "overrated" phenomenon. Haley backed off that statement Thursday, saying he was in a bad mood after Sunday's loss at Jacksonville and because Chambers and Cassel had worked so well together despite three practice days together.
"That's important," Haley conceded. "Guys, the more they work together, get on the same page. We do a lot of things to try to get those guys on the same page."
Chambers passed his first test, and that's something others haven't done. Ashley Lelie and Amani Toomer didn't make it out of Chiefs training camp. Somehow, Chambers and Bobby Wade, with little prep time with their quarterback, haven't been fazed. Both were productive in their first games with the Chiefs, and they are big reasons why Haley said he thinks a once-unstable unit has begun to make some noticeable progress.
Haley didn't say what skills Wade and Chambers possess that helped them to adapt so quickly. Wade said he has some ideas.
"Experience has an awful lot to do with it," he said. "Chris being in a few different systems, myself being in a few different systems, able to pick the offense up quickly - it definitely helps. Just knowing that the game is still the same."
"You've kind of got to get there and know what you're doing. Experience always prevails," Chambers said. "It's going to get to the point where he's just going to throw one up, and I'm going to have to make a play for him. That's where we're going to get to."