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 Johnson & Battle on Haley

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PostSubject: Johnson & Battle on Haley   Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:53 am

Players on Haley: 'We definitely believed in him'
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star

Sports talk radio and internet chat boards have buzzed for months about the possible dismissal of Chiefs coach Todd Haley, but when the ax fell Monday, his players insisted the move came as a surprise.

“It was a little bit of a shocker,” running back Jackie Battle said. “Todd is a very passionate coach and wants to win. It caught me off guard a little bit. We went to the playoffs last year and won the AFC West, but I guess the team's moving on.”

Less than a year after Haley led the Chiefs to an unexpected division title, his third season with the organization has been marred by spectacular inconsistency and lopsided losses.

Still, there wasn't a sense in the locker room that Haley's firing was inevitable.

“Like I said, we went to the playoffs last year,” Battle said. “That has to mean something. The season didn't go the way we wanted this year, but he's proven that he can win in the league.”

Most Chiefs players made themselves scarce as news filtered through the Arrowhead Stadium practice facility, but Battle and linebacker Derrick Johnson spoke about Haley's dismissal.

Both players stressed that Haley had not lost the locker room.

“We definitely believed in him,” Johnson said. “We believed in his system and believed in what he was telling us. ... He was a guy that was very passionate about what he does on the field and in the meeting room. My best wishes are for him, and I hope he does well in the future.”

Johnson's relationship with Haley got off to a rocky start as the injured linebacker lost his starting spot and was used primarily in passing situations in 2009, Haley's first with the Chiefs.

“Me and Todd have grown closer in the time he's been here,” Johnson said. “We've had our ups and downs, of course, but my hat's off to him for sticking with me and being passionate about what he believes in. We've shared some good times. He's a fun guy to be around. He'll definitely be well-missed.”

Still, Haley's well-documented passion wasn't enough to spare his job.

“I don't know if it's fair or not, but that's part of the business,” Battle said. “We're judged and it all comes down to wins. We just weren't winning this year.”

Key injuries to safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Matt Cassel have played a role in the Chiefs' uneven 5-8 campaign, but that also apparently wasn't enough to offset the perceived lack of preparation in too many games this season.

“This is the NFL, and when you're losing, that's the nature of the beast,” Johnson said. “It goes on in the NFL all the time, every year.”

But Johnson, for one, would never pin the season's struggles on Haley or his staff.

“I'm a player, so I never blame a coordinator or a head coach,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, it's the players out there playing, and we have to make the plays.”

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