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Chief concern: Baldwin might be regrettable pick for K.C.

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Tim Heitman/US Presswire
Rookie Jonathan Baldwin entered Chiefs training camp with a shot at earning the No. 2 wide receiver job.


So, Kansas City Chiefs rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin reportedly injured his hand/wrist in a locker room fight with running back Thomas Jones and could be out for more than a month. For his sake, I hope he was knuckling up in self defense.

In the short term, the enigmatic Baldwin, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound rarity, looks like a knucklehead. He not only injured the part of his body more valuable than the legs he runs with, but also hurt his team.

Keep in mind, Baldwin is as close in physical gifts as 2011 draft classmates A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Baldwin just didn't play with the consistency or competitiveness in college that those two did, which is why he was selected 20 slots lower (26th overall) than Jones, who went two picks after Green.

The red flags about Baldwin's character and desire were why other teams passed on him before the Chiefs took him.

Kansas City was applauded for not only addressing a need but also taking a player who was viewed as a good value and a likely immediate contributor. Who knew that the short-term return would be a guy who already has locker room issues.

Quarterback Matt Cassel told me this summer that the one thing that really handicapped the Chiefs late last season was depth at wide receiver. He said that he hoped Baldwin would be able to help the team and give him another threat to aid his development. Cassel reportedly spent a lot of extra time working with Baldwin to get him up to speed.

As bad as this seems right now, Baldwin will be back. He should be fresh of body and hungry of mind. We'll see. He won't catch much of a break because coach Todd Haley is not going to cut him one lick of slack. Haley has a history of driving players until they either snap or get the message.

When Haley took over Kansas City, Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had some work-ethic issues. Haley and others -- like Thomas Jones, who is widely regarded as an example of professionalism at its finest -- held Bowe accountable. Now, they've got a very good player in Bowe, who wants to be great.

In fact, the Chiefs have an ascending team built with a roster of diligent players who work to win. That atmosphere is one of the reasons why Kansas City felt it could insulate Baldwin, nurture him through some of his shortcomings and watch him turn into a player.

He's not off to a good start, but there is time. For as much heat as Baldwin is going to take now, if he produces down the line, this will look like an incident of immaturity. If he doesn't grow, he won't be in Kansas City long. Haley and GM Scott Pioli aren't going to tolerate it. They'll admit their mistake and move on.

That type of decision would be bold, but maybe one of self defense.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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