Chiefs expect improvement in Todd Haley's second season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs are feeling rather good about themselves.

For a team that hasn't won a postseason game since 1994 and has averaged a shade better than three wins a year since 2007, it's a refreshing change.

The talent level is no doubt better than when Todd Haley took over as head coach ahead of the 2009 season. Conditioning-wise, the Chiefs are also much improved. Plus, as they go through a rain-plagued mandatory minicamp this weekend, everybody admits to feeling more comfortable with their coaching staff and what's expected from them.

"We know what coach Haley wants as a team atmosphere," said veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson. "We kind of know where he's going. We've been under him for a year. We've kind of got our feet under us. We're learning a different scheme on defense and on offense, so we're really geared into the classroom right now. There's a good attitude, a good feedback among the coaches and players."

Haley's first offseason was devoted more than he wanted to conditioning. As a group, the Chiefs shed more than 700 pounds leading up to a season that ended 4-12 but on a huge high note. A rousing 44-24 victory at Denver sent everybody home with reinforced belief that Haley's arduous program was bearing fruit.

"I'm grateful for everything about last year, and for those guys to see what that felt like to walk off a division rival's field with a real big win can do nothing but help," Haley said. "I know a lot of these guys have used that as a little springboard into the next season."

The Chiefs have also been able to make more strides this offseason because conditioning has not been such a high priority. Shocked at the team's overall lack of conditioning when he took over following a 2-14 campaign in 2008, Haley made last year's offseason part football camp and part fat farm.

"You should only lose 700 pounds-plus one time," he said. "Them coming in the way they did in March and understanding the importance -- it comes back to expectations. They knew so much more this March than they knew last March. So did we as a coaching staff."

A year ago, the Chiefs struggled to put in the 3-4 defense and then, just 13 days before the season opener, fired their offensive coordinator and installed an entirely new system. Bringing in new coordinators on both offense and defense this season may have forced players to pay extra-close attention in the classroom, but the systems basically stayed the same.

"I think in some areas we're further along because we have the same system from top down," said safety Jon McGraw. "It's a little bit different from the coordinators' standpoint, different philosophies, different terminologies. We've got to re-learn all that stuff. But as far as being comfortable with expectations, I think it's better this year."

"It's a process. We knew that coming in that, it would be a process," said Haley. "We're seeing progress, and in a lot of different areas.

After this weekend's minicamp, the Chiefs will be just about done until they open their new training camp in late July in St. Joseph, Mo. What the players do the six weeks between minicamp and training camp will go a long way toward proving their dedication is as strong as it now seems to be.

"These players have made a great investment here over the last few months. They can't have any slippage," Haley said. "There's not one that can have any slippage during the time that we're not going to be together. That's truly the next step, the next one we'll all see and witness is training camp. We can stay the same, we can get worse or we can get better. And what's critical for everyone in this building is for everyone to get better."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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