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Chiefs reaping benefits of WR Bowe's rededication to game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dwayne Bowe is reforming his reputation one big catch at a time.

Everyone agrees the transformation is not complete. But the showboating braggart who proclaimed himself "The Show" after Kansas City drafted him in the first round in 2007 can't be found. The inconsistent wide receiver who helped the Chiefs lead the NFL in dropped passes during the 2009 season now is setting records for excellence.

Bowe no longer celebrates after scoring. He's giving counsel to young players. He's doing more listening than talking, and he's a major reason the Chiefs (6-4) are in first place in the AFC West.

"I'm just so proud of Dwayne and how he's stepped up and the receiver he's become," quarterback Matt Cassel said. "He's still growing."

With two touchdown receptions against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Bowe set a Chiefs record with at least one TD catch in six consecutive games. Since an embarrassing drop in the end zone during a loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 10, he's put together as fine a six-game stretch as just about anyone in the league, rolling up 563 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.

A few months ago, most fans were ready to write him off as a first-round bust. He would let himself get overweight. His work habits were not good. He was constantly in the coaches' doghouse.

Then, after last season, a miserable year for him and everyone else on a team that finished 4-12, Bowe seemed to make a decision. He might have been at that tipping point so many talented underachievers reach. Do I go to work and put everything else out of my mind and try to reach my full potential? Or continue to take it easy, be content with the big money I earned in just a few years in the NFL?

"I don't know whether (it was) the tipping point or whatever," coach Todd Haley said. "I just know there's a difference between talking about it and doing it. He just started doing, and that's continued."

Haley noticed the new Bowe right away when the Chiefs began their offseason program.

"You're searching through the crowd to see what each guy looks like, how they're acting, but he was one I was looking for, and I knew immediately that he meant business," Haley said.

For one thing, Bowe was in shape, a sleek 210 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. Plus, he paid attention and worked hard. He went to a receivers camp along with many established stars, such as the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, a perennial Pro Bowl pick. This season, Bowe has made a habit of coming in on his day off to work with Cassel.

"He made up his mind some time last year that he wanted to be part of this, part of something special," Haley said. "I think he's shown that he's willing to do the things you have to do to be a good player in this league."

It probably helped Bowe to know that Haley came up through the ranks as a wide receivers coach, and that Fitzgerald credits Haley with helping him became an elite receiver when Haley was his offensive coordinator.

"He's hard on me," Bowe said Sunday, the first time all season he spoke to the media. "He told me this is what he had to do to change Fitz's way and how he made him an impact player and he's doing the same thing with me. He says,`Just be you. Just keep making plays and we're going to keep coming to you.' "

Bowe even halfway apologized for snubbing reporters all these months.

"I think it was just me, the person knowing what I've got to do," he said. "It's not you guys. It's just me."

Bowe also has played a big role in Cassel's improvement. A year ago, the Chiefs quarterback had 16 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. This season through 10 games it's 18 touchdowns and four interceptions.

"Dwayne challenged himself this offseason and he went out there and worked with a lot of different wide receivers," Cassel said. "He got himself ready to play. It's showing up on the field. I've said it time and time again -- it's so important to have rapport and a relationship with these receivers. If he knows what I'm thinking and he's at the right depth and I'm throwing the ball on time and accurately, we're going to have a successful passing game."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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