At first glance it would appear that the Kansas City Chiefs 2005 roster is all but set. But that…
At any given point in a players NFL career, he will have to make decisions that can alter not only his play on the field but the way he is perceived by his teammates and coaches. It's clear that Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil is not happy with guard Brian Waters and his refusal to workout at the teams OTA's. On Wednesday afternoon, Vermeil welcomed Waters to OTA's but the reception was hardly a warm one.
"I said hello to him," Vermeil said coldly referring to his brief exchange with Waters. "If he wanted to practice he'd practice. He's got some things right now on his mind that he's got to get settled and we respect that and go on."
Not the best way to endear yourself to your head coach. The response left little doubt that there is some tension building between Vermeil and Waters. On the surface and what has been rumored for weeks is Waters' desire to get a new contract from the Chiefs. Vermeil indicated that Waters absence might have to do with some personal matters rather than a desire to get more money.
"No. it's not. He's doing what he thinks he has to do right now in a family situation," Vermeil said on Wednesday.
For Waters he held true to some of those comments when he was asked directly by reporters if he was holding out for more coin.
"No. That is not even part of the deal. That is not part of the reason why I am not here. I am not here for personal reasons and that is the only the reason I am not here,: Waters said firmly.
Still his decision to skip OTA's does raise some eyebrows as rumors persist that indeed he's looking to get a new deal from the Chiefs. By his own admission, Waters indicated to reporters that he's always looking for more money and that goes hand in hand with being a professional athlete. "You always want to get paid," Waters said.
To this point in his career in Kansas City, Waters has always been a standup guy and upfront with the media. He's claimed that the news of his contract demands are untrue and are a fabrication from the media. Still the talk has touched a nerve with his Head Coach who indicated two weeks ago that money could be a factor in why his first All-Pro Guard refused to attend the OTA's. For Waters though its all being blown out of proportion.
"I believe it is a natural deal when a guy is not around building an excuse. There was no reason for me or even the team to disclose my personal stuff. I really think it came from the media," Waters told the gathering flock of reporters.
But the conspiracy theorists might not be so willing to buy into the fact that Waters has chosen to skip OTA's soley based on family matters. Every NFL player wants more money and Waters admitted that without any reservation or hesitation on Wednesday. When pushed about his head coach and his feelings about not being around, Waters claims they've had communications about his reasons for skipping the non mandatory workouts.
"Coach Vermeil understands exactly where I am coming from. He has respected my wishes as I have respected his. He didn't think it was the best decision for him. He is the football coach and he has to worry about the team. I have to worry about my responsibilities off the field. This was one priority at one particular time over the other," said Waters.
Granted that priority is his family and the decision to spend as much time with his children in Dallas as he can; needs to be and should be respected. You can't fault a man for that and if that's truly the case, then Waters will earn his stripes based on his word to be at Mini-Camp next week and Training Camp in July.
If not, then the rumors about wanting a better contract will increase and create more animosity between Waters and his Head Coach. When Waters does get back on the field, he'll need to get in football shape. Its clear that he has some work to do to get back to his All-Pro form and status.
"I have plenty of work to do," Waters said. Vermeil agrees and indicated that Waters should not rest on his laurels just because he was an All-Pro last season. Thus the ball is squarely in the hands of Brian Waters. In order for the Chiefs to make a serious championship run in 2005, he along with teammate Will Shields will need to be on this roster motivated and energized if this team is going to be successful this season.
Waters did his part on Wednesday by declaring his loyalty to the organization and giving out assurances that he'll be ready to go when it counts this season.
"I am a Chief and ready to go," Waters said profoundly. "I am excited to come out here. Another reason why I am came out here is to see my teammates work and see what all excitement is about. I was watching the defense fly around and some of young, new players. I wanted to see the new acquisitions and I am happy about that."
Time will tell if that happiness will include a contract extension for Waters and his family or a change of heart as the Chiefs mandatory Mini-Camp looms next week. "I'm here for all things mandatory," Waters claimed referring to next weeks workouts.
With that said, Waters has drawn his line in the sand and put everyone on notice that there are clearly other issues on his mind other than football, his teammates and the desires of his coaching staff. If money is at the root of the issues and that is the primary reason that has kept Waters from attending the OTA's, then we'll find out soon enough. If not, you have to give Waters credit for making his family a priority this off-season and wanting to spend time with his three young children.
Let's just hope that Waters decisions this off-season are not at the expense of the organization that gave him a chance to become an All-Pro. For the first time in his NFL career, his teammates need him and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the pressure of his new stature as one of the games best offensive linemen.
They say money is not everything in life and now Waters has to play out that theory and honor his contract as he stated he would on Wednesday afternoon by showing up next week for KC's mini-camp. If he doesn't attend, then his characer and honor will be called into question.