KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The deadline came and went, and the Chiefs kept quiet.
Kansas City is chasing its first division championship since 2003, and its most glaring weakness is at wide receiver. Still, one of this year's surprise teams wanted nothing to do with Randy Moss, the star wide receiver who could, at best, galvanize a team's passing game or, at worst, rip apart a locker room.
Only Tennessee submitted a claim for Moss. The Titans had the 20th position in the waiver wire, nine spots ahead of the Chiefs. But it didn't matter, because Kansas City didn't pursue Moss, and that left a question that some Chiefs fans had a hard time answering: Why would a team ignore the chance to bring in a transcendent weapon at its most pressing position of need? As it often is in the NFL, it's just not that simple.
"You want a certain type of guys in your locker room," Chiefs receiver Chris Chambers said. "You want an unselfish teammate; somebody who's going to be there for you in the clutch when the time is right. Somebody who's not going to give up on you."
In his 13 seasons, Moss hasn't proved to be that player.
Despite its weaknesses, Kansas City has put together its promising first half not with the league's most talented roster — other than a handful of positions, the Chiefs have mostly the same personnel as the group that went 4-12 a season ago — but rather by finding a balance of young players and veterans, outspoken leaders and those willing to fall into line. It takes time to build a thing like that, and often one wrong acquisition can dissolve it.
Depending on whom you ask, Moss was either a good teammate or a player who cares only about his own statistics. Quarterback Matt Cassel, who played with Moss in New England, said the receiver is a "good guy" and "a professional." But he's also a player who has divided teams in the past; Minnesota traded for Moss five weeks ago, and after cutting him this week, coach Brad Childress expressed regret in his failed experiment.
Childress and the Vikings learned the hard way. The Chiefs weren't willing to step in a similar trap. Players said this week that, especially on a team with so many young and impressionable players, bringing in talented but high-maintenance stars such as Moss is simply too risky. This is the team, after all, that took its chances holding on to an aging, moody player to start last season. When it cut ties with running back Larry Johnson, the entire team improved.
A year later, guard Brian Waters said that the Chiefs' locker room is as balanced as it has been "in a long time." But it's still fragile enough that one outspoken or selfish player could spoil the chemistry the team has worked so hard to foster - no matter the ability.
"Randy Moss-type talent doesn't come on the market very often," Waters said. "That being said, let's be honest: Randy Moss comes on this team, he can't expect five or six catches a game. Not the way we're doing things right now. Will that make him happy?
"Then you've got to ask yourself, if he's not happy, no matter what the success of the football team is, if he's not making the catches or getting the balls he wants, does that ultimately disrupt what you're trying to do as a football team? Is it worth it at that point?... You'd be taking a huge risk."
Linebacker Derrick Johnson said he knew the Chiefs wouldn't pursue Moss. He didn't have a reason why, rather a feeling that certain players don't fit into this locker room's culture.
"He's clearly a really good player," Johnson said of Moss. "But I just think we've got a good chemistry. You never know what's going on up top, whether they wanted him or not.
"I wouldn't see why they would."
"We want that certain kind of guy. I don't know what that certain kind of guy is, but you want somebody who's not going to cause distractions.... Some teams can handle that. Some teams can't."