Hello from Chicago, where we’re set to cover the Bears/Broncos preseason game from Soldier Field tomorrow. Some dude named Peyton Manning will probably play, but just a little bit.
Before we turn the page, a quick spin back through the trip to St. Joseph, Mo.?
– We talked to a bunch of players during the joint practice with the Cardinals, but the best stuff came from safety Eric Berry. He’s recovering from a torn ACL, but looked really strong yesterday. Watching him jam Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, knock him off his route and knock the ball away was sweet. Better was Berry’s description of himself: “I feel good as Hell,” Berry told me. I knew the circumstances I was in, I had a lot of help around me to get back to where I was. Just looked at it like a challenge. Just wanted to come back, make sure I was ready to help my team. It was a sense of urgency, even though I had a whole year off, I felt like I had a lot to do. That was the mentality I took on.”
– Another thing on Berry that I always forget. He was turning into a star when he got injured, but he wasn’t there yet. He’s still learning. That was the point Romeo Crennel made to me, that they got to knock the rust off him and keep him headed on the path to being a game-changing player now that his knee is better. Berry agreed. “I’m not there yet,” Berry told me. “Just for the simple fact that I feel like I can get so much better. Know what I’m saying? Even aside from the injury, even though I overcame that and I feel like I can run around and make plays and stuff like that, I still feel like there is another level of me that I need to reach. It’s just, that’s the way it drives me. I know the injury happened and all that and I just want to be great. … I have big expectations for myself and this team.”
– Dinner was an obvious choice. After spending the day in St. Joseph, I drove back to Kansas City and took in the always fantastic Oklahoma Joe’s with my buddy Kent Babb from the KC Star, among others. Had the ribs and pulled pork, and it was the tenderness that got me. Plus, those might be the best fries in the history of the world. Great place. Oh, did I mention it’s in a gas station? It is.
– It’s clear the Cardinals have a true quarterback competition and coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t come close to naming a starter. They dodged a bullet with Kevin Kolb’s bruised chest, and he may play Friday. “I think he’ll be fine,” Whisenhunt said Tuesday. “Just a little stiff. Listen, it’s only two days from now, I think as we progress, he’ll probably do something tomorrow and I expect him to play Friday night.” That may be important. It was just one practice, but John Skelton was crazy inaccurate. Have to think Kolb looks better the more Skelton throws.
– Ryan Williams, the Cardinals running back, was a breakout star of camp last year, right until a ruptured patella ruined his season. He’s looking good now, even if the team is being cautious with him. But Whisenhunt was impressed during the joint session. “His knee was bothering him a little bit, but he pushed through it,” the coach said. “That’s what you have to do when you’re going back from one of these injuries. I saw Ryan grow up as a pro a little bit, that was encouraging.”
– Man, Chiefs WR Jon Baldwin was impressive. Just like Fitzgerald, he goes up and gets it. The best play came when he leapt high over a CB who had position on him and yanked the ball off the dude’s helmet. Pretty sick. I can only imagine Dwayne Bowe’s reaction to hearing about how good Baldwin looks, making him a little less valuable. “Everybody knows he’s got unbelievable athletic ability and the potential is there,” Fitzgerald said of his fellow Pitt alum.
– Finally, I talked with Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, an energetic, idea-oriented offensive guru. Looks like a fantastic fit for KC. The best thing? He’s adaptable. He doesn’t have a system he force feeds. Now he has a sound power running game with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis? Cool, he’ll use that, even if it’s different from what he had in Miami. “Well, the goal is to score points offensively however you need to do it,” Daboll said. “We’re gonna try to put our guys in good position and then we expect them — regardless of the play call — we’re going to execute it and make sure the quarterback understands some of the things he can get in and out of and make sure everybody’s on the same page. … We don’t want to be error repeaters we say. Go out and make a mistake yesterday and make the same mistake. We’re making progress.”
– I love joint practices… but man, there is so much going on. Tough to keep track of. I went into yesterday planning to watch about 10 things and got to 2. Oh well. “We had both fields going, 180 guys,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s a lot of guys doing a lot of things, so getting to go through the film and evaluate your players is invaluable.”