Increased team unity equals wins for Chiefs
10/11/2011 12:00 AM
10/11/2011 12:08 AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The mood was lighthearted in the Chiefs' locker room on Monday, and for good reason.
The players could look back on a come-from-behind victory at Indianapolis on Sunday or look forward to a much-welcomed bye this week.
But for the moment, they were focused on the competition at hand — a hotly contested game of Cornhole between kicker Ryan Succop and rookie linebacker Gabe Miller.
Cornhole, or called "Bags" by some, is a form of horseshoes played with beanbags. Two plywood boards, with Chiefs logos and a hole at the top, are set 33 feet apart, as marked off by adhesive tape on the carpet in the locker room.
The object of the game is to throw each of the four bags into the hole for 3 points or on the board for 1. First one to 21 points wins.
The bigger object, in the eyes of Coach Todd Haley, is building morale and creating a fun atmosphere in the locker room.
So far it's worked. The Chiefs are 2-0 since Haley brought the game into the locker room after the dreadful 0-3 start.
"We've been trying to figure out ways to create togetherness," said Haley, who has yet to shave since the Chiefs' mini-streak began, "and it's been great. It's a way to keep guys hanging around and interacting with each other, and winning helps out."
Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn suggested the activity because it was successful at one of his previous coaching stops. Haley and his family play Cornhole when on vacation in Ocean City, Md., and his wife, Chrissy contacted someone they know who builds the games and asked for him to send a couple of boards to Kansas City.
"Three days later, he had them out here," Haley said. "We're going to get two more, because the line to play gets too long.... We're trying to create an atmosphere that's fun to hang out in.... Had we not won the last two weeks, they might be being used as firewood."
As would be expected, the best Cornhole player in the locker room is deep snapper Thomas Gafford. But Succop, safety Sabby Piscitelli and defensive back Reshard Langford were pretty good marksmen.
"It's a good way to learn some of your teammates and get the camradarie going," said Piscitelli, a newcomer to the Chiefs this season. "It was a great idea and hopefully keeps the momentum going.
The key to winning at Cornhole?
"Pick a good teammate," Succop said. "We've had a lot of fun playing it. It's good when we have free time between meetings. A lot of guys stay after we're done with practice and meetings and hang around and play. As long as we take care of businesss and still have time to cut up, it's good."
Despite the frivolity, the Chiefs still have their priorities straight and will spend today and Wednesday practicing and watching tape of the Oakland Raiders before getting the rest of the week off.
"The bye is good, but we have Oakland," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said of the next game, on Oct. 23 at Oakland. "This is Oakland week. It just so happens we get a couple extra days to look at them. It's already Oakland week."
The Chiefs, too, needed a respite from the rigors of the season. Several players, including running backs Jackie Battle and Le'Ron McClain were nursing injuries from Sunday's game and might need some extra time to be ready for the Raiders.
"When you add training camp, four preseason games, five regular-season games," said cornerback Brandon Carr, "it's a good time to take a week off and rest our bodies and get ready for the next 11 games."
And the players rather have the bye coming off a victory instead of having to wait two weeks to play again after a loss.
"It's always a good time for the bye week," guard Ryan Lilja said. "You get to take a rest, get to catch your breath a little bit and get two weeks to focus on a division opponent we're going to play who beat us twice last year pretty well.
"We have two weeks to enjoy a comeback on the road, and that's two weeks of having a good taste in your mouth. Two weeks ago, it was an awful taste in our mouths."
That's why Haley brought in the beanbags. So far, they're working.
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