KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It was a long few days. There's no denying that now. Cornerback Brandon Carr struggled through the first week or so of Chiefs training camp, and he didn't take it well.
He couldn't prevent deep passes, one after another. Then it got into his head. Nothing was going well.
"I'm like: 'I've never had trouble like this,' " Carr said this week. "I was struggling."
It extended into the Chiefs' first night practice in St. Joseph and then into their scrimmage. That's about the time Carr asked for help. He leaned on cornerback Brandon Flowers, who entered the league with Carr in 2008. Then he relied on himself.
"I just said, 'I'm here for a reason. It's just a matter of time before things go my way,' " he said. "I went back to the basics of fundamentals of playing corner, and when you're in a slump or your back is against the wall, you've got to fight out."
Gradually, Carr's slump lifted. His confidence returned. He felt normal again.
If Carr played for a different team, he might have solicited advice from a veteran defensive back, a sort of sage who'd been around and experienced it all. But Carr plays for the Chiefs, and the reality is that there aren't many teammates who fit that description.
Carr, Flowers and Maurice Leggett are in an unusual place this season: They're still young players — Carr and Flowers are 24, and Leggett will be in October — with plenty to learn, but they also happen to be among the most senior members of the Chiefs' secondary.
Sure, there are older players, such as safety Jon McGraw and cornerback Mike Richardson, but they're not expected to play as often as Carr and Flowers. And those players aren't expected to be the examples for the team's rookie defensive backs, safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Javier Arenas.
"In a perfect world," coach Todd Haley said, "they'd probably love to have, rather than just one, but a couple veteran-type guys in certain situations.
"A lot of positions on this team are kind of in that mix. After that, we've got a lot of young guys. That can be a real good thing, too.... They're going to be a prideful group that wants to be a real good secondary in the league. There's enough ability there to do that."
For better or worse, there appears to be enough maturity, too. Carr and Flowers have been starters since they were rookies, endured two losing seasons, and undergone a head coaching change and played for three coordinators.
"We are, I guess you could say, battle-tested," Carr said. "We've been through it all. As your career lengthens in the NFL, you have to transition into that role of becoming the voices of the team. We have a young secondary right now, so the chemistry is getting there.
"We're here for the young guys to lean on us. We share our experiences, and our relationships are getting stronger each day. It's time for us to switch over and become the big brothers of the secondary, so to speak. It comes with time."
And already, Carr said, the Chiefs' youngsters are gravitating toward their elders, young as they might be. Carr said Arenas finds him often, and he's not alone.
While he's busy counseling, Carr also shouldn't forget that he still has room to improve. That slump did happen, after all, and if another one happens, the Chiefs don't have a reliable backup plan; Arenas hasn't looked ready for prime time — Haley said he'd be better as a nickel corner — and Leggett was carted off the field in Saturday's exhibition game at Tampa Bay and is expected to miss some time as he recovers.
"When there's a play out of a run or a pass, the spotlight is going to be on him," Haley said of Carr. "And he's got to do his job: be aggressive, be physical, be a good defender.
"He had a little rough patch there early on; I think that he'll admit to. The good thing is, it appears he's doing the things that we need every day, which is being a dependable player and get better a little bit every day."
And, Carr said, those aren't his only responsibilities.
"I don't discriminate," he said. "Whoever needs it — young, old — I'm always here for advice."