KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Herm Edwards was the kind of coach who would put his arm around players walking through the locker room.
Todd Haley takes a little different tack.
Fiery and blunt, Kansas City's first-year coach is using his no-nonsense approach to try to change a losing culture that's bogged the Chiefs down the past two seasons. After the team completed offseason practices under Haley this week, it's clear everything -- from the workouts to the attitude -- is going to be different around Arrowhead.
Call Haley the anti-Herm.
"It's been like night and day," fullback Mike Cox said.
Haley's demanding coaching style traces back to his days as an assistant under Bill Parcells with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. The Tuna berated his young assistant, showing no sympathy when something went wrong. He even made Haley run laps after one foul-up.
|Orlin Wagner / Associated Press|
|Todd Haley's (pictured) abrasive style is a major departure from that of predecessor Herm Edwards.|
Now, Haley has become a sort of mini-Tuna, shouting at his players, not allowing any excuses or distractions.
"The No. 1 thing has to be football for all these guys," Haley said. "That's been made clear to every player on this team."
Haley's in-your-face style has rubbed players the wrong way in the past. He had an ongoing spat with Terrell Owens as the receivers coach in Dallas and a confrontation in Arizona with receiver Anquan Boldin that was caught by television cameras during the NFC Championship Game.
Chiefs Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters had issues with Haley shortly after his hiring, saying the coach had been disrespectful of him during a meeting, then that new general manager Scott Pioli refused to meet with him. Waters later told a newspaper columnist that he wanted to be traded and did not attend any of the team's voluntary workouts this spring.
Waters showed up for the Chiefs' mandatory minicamp, but how long he stays in Kansas City remains to be seen.
"He is here. He's practicing. That's what I want," Haley said after Waters' first workout. "I'm not, Scott's not, in the business of giving players away. He's here. He's working, trying to learn what we're teaching, trying to do it the way we're teaching it. We obviously need as many players as we can get."
Linebacker Mike Vrabel, traded to the Chiefs after eight seasons and three Super Bowl rings with New England, may be another unhappy player in Kansas City. He missed all the voluntary workouts, showing up only for the mandatory minicamp.
"For lack of a better term, I was just trying to exercise my rights within the (collective bargaining agreement)," Vrabel said. "We bargained for rights to make these workouts voluntary, and that's all I was trying to do, to exercise my rights within the CBA."
OK, so maybe not everyone is buying in quite yet. Overall, though, the Chiefs seem to be catching on to what their new scream-til-you-get-it-right coach wants.
They're already in better shape. One of Haley's focus points in the offseason was to slim the players down so they wouldn't fade late in games and in the season. The Chiefs lost a collective 340 pounds.
And, despite all the yelling, they seemed to have gotten something right during offseason workouts -- Haley let the veterans go Tuesday, two days early.
"We were starting to get it," Haley said. "It's showing up. We're getting more and more guys who are doing it the way it needs to be done."
There's still a long way to go, though. A team that won six combined games the past two seasons doesn't change just because it practiced well in the spring.
The offense has to adapt to new quarterback Matt Cassel and won't have the luxury of leaning on perennial Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, who was traded to Atlanta. The defense is undergoing an overhaul, switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4. And instead of a coach who'll put his arm around their shoulders, the players have a coach who screams in their faces and is still learning on the job in his first stint as an NFL head coach.
"Every day is new. I'm a little more comfortable out there, I'd say, but every day is a new adventure," Haley said. "Like I've said, I don't have all the answers. I'm just trying to get it right and make good decisions along with my staff. To this point, I feel OK about where we're going."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press