ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Many fans were probably disheartened when Kansas City coaches hauled a mobile outhouse onto the practice field and told pass catchers to go in, have a seat and close the door.
Wasn't the team that led the NFL in dropped passes a year ago supposed to be getting its aerial game out of the toilet?
As it turned out, the Porta-Potty was used for a unique kind of pass-catching drill that players, suppressing a laugh, hailed as effective in developing some quick hand-eye coordination.
Assistant head coach Maurice Carthon, who introduced the Chiefs to the Porta-Potty drill, stood about 10 feet away and shouted to another coach when to fling open the door. The second the door opened, Carthon fired the pass and it was on the player to hang on.
"It teaches you hand-eye coordination," receiver Dexter McCluster said.
Carthon learned it from New York Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope when they worked together in New England.
"I haven't done it in a while but it's a good concentration drill, I think, for hands, eyes and getting the ball and getting your hands up quick," he said.
Who can blame the Chiefs for pulling out all the stops? No team had more dropped passes last year than Kansas City's frightful 48. It was a big factor in the 4-12 record in their first year under Todd Haley, whose broke into the NFL tutoring receivers.
The preseason opener in Atlanta on Friday will be the first chance to see if the Chiefs are headed back in the right direction. With new personnel and stepped-up training camp emphasis on pass-and-catch, they believe they are.
"We're taking it upon ourselves to be a good catching team," wide receiver Chris Chambers said. "Nobody is always perfect. It's a mindset. When you miss a pass, you have to get it out of your head and make the next one."
Among Chiefs receivers and quarterbacks, it's not considered polite to bring up last year.
"I'm tired of talking about all that. I'm tired of talking about dropped passes," Chambers said. "It's time to move on."
Determined to do just that, the Chiefs have moved on several fronts.
Mark Bradley and Bobby Wade, who each had nine of the 48 drops, have cleaned out their lockers and made room for McCluster and fellow rookie Tony Moeaki.
McCluster, a quick and versatile second-round pick from Mississippi, appears ready to provide more speed at the wide receiver spot. Moeaki is being counted on at tight end, a position that's been a virtual wasteland since perennial Pro Bowl selection Tony Gonzalez was traded to the Atlanta Falcons.
Back, and so far declining to talk to reporters, is wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. He led the Chiefs and everybody else in the NFL with 11 drops in 2009. But Haley says the former first-round pick is working hard and getting better.
Nevertheless, camp-watchers have noticed quite a few drops in routine drills. Bowe, repeating a career-long pattern, seems to be catching a few and then dropping one or two.
Everyone knows Haley will be quick to run out of patience.
"I don't think you're going to have success if you're dropping a lot of balls," he said. "That is something our coaches and players are very cognizant of, and I think you'll see them continue to work on that."
Haley was particularly frustrated by all the drops that helped ruin the 2009 season.
"You are talking to a longtime receivers coach. We could have a long dissertation here on catching the ball," he said. "It is a unique subject because a big part of catching the football is mental and has to do with confidence and things. I think everybody coaches it different. What you do need to be doing is catching a lot of balls, before practice, after practice, during practice. You always have to emphasize technique and how you want the players to catch the ball."
Starting Friday, Haley will get to see if his players have caught on.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press