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No rebuilding: Veteran LB Thomas hopes Chiefs can win immediately

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Zach Thomas wants to be clear: He didn't come to the Kansas City Chiefs to rebuild.

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The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker acknowledges a team that won just two games has talent issues, possibly entire position groups in need of overhaul. But Thomas signed a free-agent contract with the Chiefs because he believes they have what it takes for the sort of rebound that took the Miami Dolphins from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008.

"I'm not here just to coach or to help this team out to try to rebuild," Thomas said Saturday at the Chiefs' first offseason minicamp. "I'm not here for that."

Thomas, who will turn 36 before the season starts, spent most of his NFL career with the Dolphins. He has firsthand knowledge of the horrors of 1-15. He was released by the Dolphins after that season and signed with the Dallas Cowboys because he believed they might be up to big things.

Now Thomas is a Chief and possibly headed back to the inside linebacker position that he played so well in Miami. He's excited about the new general manager, coach and quarterback in Kansas City.

And wasn't that the formula that enabled the Dolphins to shock the NFL last season?

"I still love to play football," Thomas said. "But when I came in here, I knew everything is changed here. It all starts at the top, and I'd like to be there for that transition. Hopefully, that change will be kind of like what Miami did last year. Turn it around. And it can be done."

The Dolphins brought in Bill Parcells to be in charge. He hired a new coach and acquired veteran quarterback Chad Pennington from the New York Jets.

So far at least, the entire scenario seems eerily reminiscent of what's happening in Kansas City.

Scott Pioli, Parcells' son-in-law, is the Chiefs' new general manager. He was hired from the ultra-successful front-office staff of the New England Patriots.

Their new coach is Todd Haley, whose football pedigree extends back to his father, Dick Haley, a highly respected NFL personnel man.

Their new quarterback is Matt Cassel, who stepped in for an injured Tom Brady last season and almost lifted the Patriots into the playoffs.

"It starts with the quarterback, getting Matt Cassel in here," Thomas said. "You look at the good teams last year, they all had good quarterbacks going into the playoffs."

The Chiefs probably will switch to a 3-4 defense, which pleases Thomas. But most of all, he's sold on the new management and the new attitude they're trying to instill.

"I was a little skeptical coming to the team at first, to be honest with you," Thomas said. "But once I came in and talked to Todd, he was straight to the point. He wanted to change the mind-set of the players.

"Nothing's guaranteed year to year. You look at Dallas last year. We were guaranteed to win the Super Bowl. But we didn't even make the playoffs."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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