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 Trying to get up to speed

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PostSubject: Trying to get up to speed   Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:02 am

Chiefs’ Cassel is trying to get up to speed
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star

BALTIMORE | Training camp at Missouri Western this week looked, sounded
and, to the players felt, more like training camp as the Chiefs inch
closer to the start of the regular season.

Perhaps that means they will let starting quarterback Matt Cassel throw
some passes tonight as their exhibition schedule continues with a 6:30
game against the Ravens in Baltimore.

“I hope so,” Cassel said. “That’s the plan.”

The unhurried pace of the first two weeks of camp left the Chiefs
unprepared for last week’s preseason opener against Tampa Bay. The
result, a 25-0 Buccaneers victory, was predictable.

The Chiefs took extraordinary care that night to not put Cassel in
harm’s way. He took eight snaps, handing off on seven with a botched
center exchange accounting for the other.

At some point, probably tonight, the Chiefs have to take the wraps off.
While every player on their roster was affected one way or another by
the lockout, none was like Cassel.

He’s 29 now and in his fourth year as an NFL starter, which in many
cases could qualify him as a seen-it-all, done-it-all quarterback. But
Cassel played little in college, so every snap he gets is still a
learning experience. He didn’t get any during the offseason, where
practice was scrapped because of the lockout.

He was on his own, not the ideal situation for a quarterback trying to
establish himself as one of the NFL’s elite. He organized some informal
throwing sessions with some of the Chiefs’ receivers but acknowledged
that wasn’t as beneficial as practice with the coaches present.

As a result, the Chiefs are behind where the usually would be at this point of their preseason.

“You get a little unsettled when you get into camp and you’re trying to
set that foundation,” Cassel said. “You’re like, ‘OK, I want more and
more and more.’ But the fact of the matter is you can’t rush that. You
have to set that foundation early, and once you have that, you can grow
from there.”

Cassel had his ups and downs at camp. He’s looked better throwing to
familiar receivers like Dwayne Bowe than newcomers like Steve Breaston.

“On offense, it does take a little bit longer to achieve all those kinds
of goals because the timing is so critical,” said Jim Zorn, who is in
his first season coaching the Chiefs quarterbacks. “If you heard the
word scrambling, that’s really what a lot of quarterbacks and receivers
are doing right now, scrambling to get together in the communication and
the timing of things.

“There’s a sense of urgency to get everything down pat. It does take
time. We’ll get better and better as we go. We’re trying to get everyone
up to speed as quickly as we can.

“(Cassel is) not going through the motions and being frustrated that we started so late. There’s no whining going on.”

Offseason practice is usually a time for the Chiefs not only to unveil
their playbook but experiment with new wrinkles that may or may not find
an eventual home in any game plan.

The entire process was compacted into camp this year, putting a burden on all the quarterbacks, but particularly the starter.

“You’re trying different stuff,” Cassel said. “We didn’t have those
(offseason practices) and minicamps to kind of experiment, so we’re
experimenting with different personnel groups, different formations.
We’re learning a lot about our team and who we are. I think we’re moving
in the right direction.

“From one day to the next, it’s different. One day you can be completely
on and feel great about how the day went, and there’s other days when
you’re trying new stuff or you’re not as sharp as you’d like to be.”

Counting the short tenure of Chan Gailey, Cassel is now working with his
fourth offensive coordinator, Bill Muir, and fourth position coach in
Zorn. But coach Todd Haley has been the constant, so much remains the
same.

That continuity may have to carry Cassel, at least early in the season.

“The good thing is that he’s been … in this system now going on three
years,” Haley said. “He’s been with the core of the players that are
around him for one, two and three years, or going on that.

“I think that Matt’s done nothing since he got here but improve, but
last year he did so many things that helped us have some success. Now,
this year he’s passionate about trying to improve. We as coaches are
going to do everything we can to try to make that happen and help that
happen.”

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