Kansas City Chiefs

Cassel collects Chiefs for lockout practices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The calendar says May, which to quarterback Matt Cassel means it's time to start throwing. So, with the NFL lockout in place, he called some of his friends.

Chiefs wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Jerheme Urban and tight end Brad Cottam were among the first to answer the call. They joined Cassel this week in Kansas City for some informal pitch-and-catch sessions at a local high school.

That's about all the Chiefs can get done while they are barred from entering the team's practice facility because of the owner-imposed lockout.

Those without an offseason place to stay in the area, like Urban, crash in Cassel's basement.

Like his teammates and other players around the league, Cassel hasn't been able to meet with coaches since the lockout started almost two months ago. The exception was last Friday, when the lockout was lifted for a day.

Cassel spent four hours that day with new offensive coordinator Bill Muir and new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn.

"It was a good, productive day for me,'' Cassel said. "I got to see what subtle changes they were making to the offense, see what changed. I was able to put some things in the memory bank and now I can go out and work on some of these things.''

Cassel said he doesn't think he's behind from the normal schedule.

"Usually, the last week of April or the beginning of May is when we start those individual days when we go on the field and really break down a specific route,'' Cassel said. "We've actually been doing that so I feel we're on track with what we would do normally. (Offseason practice) didn't start last year until the middle of May or something like that. So I'm trying to stay on track with what we would normally be doing this time of year.

"I think it's been very productive. I don't go out there to go through the motions. I try to call out plays. I'll yell out there's a blitz coming, and (the receiver) has to make his adjustment accordingly. I'll do some things to challenge these guys. I'll give them a formation and a play call. I don't go out there and say, 'Just run a slant,' or something like that. It's more meant to challenge myself mentally and challenge them mentally as well.''

Several players are going through conditioning at a gym in the Kansas City area.

"Right now, it's more conditioning than anything else as a group,'' Cassel said. "We're doing agility drills, we're doing running, then we'll go into the weight room.

"After we're done with that, I'll usually put together a small group of guys and go out on the field to do some things. Right now, it's a little awkward because not everybody's in town. So what I'm going to try to do is to get people to come back to town and get us really in the full swing of things and have everybody working out here.

"We're going to try to get a larger group of guys. We've had guys who have flown in, and they've stayed with me for a few days and we've gone out and done some field work and some throwing. That's been good for us to get that one on one time.

"I can't go out there with eight receivers and three tight ends and throw all the routes we need to throw right now. At the same time, if I can get two or three guys and the next week get another two or three guys to come to town and then work on individual, specific stuff as it relates to their position, I think that's pretty important.''

Cassel hopes reinforcements would arrive next week, and he said the only other quarterback under contract to the Chiefs, Tyler Palko, would be one of them. He said Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster indicated they would be participating then as well.

Cassel also said he's contacted wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, and quarterback Ricky Stanzi, one of their fifth-round selections, about joining the group.

"We're making arrangements trying to get them out here as well, even if they have to come out and stay with me for a few days,'' Cassel said. "I told (Baldwin) I'm excited he's with us. I told him to get settled and let everything kind of sink in and then get out here and start to get to work. That's going to be the biggest challenge is getting some of those younger guys up to speed because they're not going to be able to have the coaching and the extra time at the facility to go through the playbook. So they'll have to rely on myself and some of the other leaders as well.''

Cassel said the Chiefs' other quarterback, Brodie Croyle, was in Mississippi with his wife, who is expecting the couple's first child any day. Croyle has no contract for 2011, so it's uncertain whether he would participate in any case.