KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Matt Cassel cracked a smile, and then promptly cracked a joke.
The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback had just come off the practice field Wednesday when he was asked whether he was a full participant. Questions have swirled around his health since 340-pound defensive tackle Howard Green landed on him in the final preseason game.
“Absolutely,” Cassel said with a smile. “Felt good, too.”
The Pro Bowl quarterback said he expects to start in the regular season opener Sunday against Buffalo, despite concerns over banged up ribs. Cassel took snaps with the first-team offense for the 15 minutes of practice that the media was allowed to observe Wednesday, rolling to his right and throwing across his body on several occasions with plenty of zip on his spirals.
“No doubt about it, I knew Matt was going to play,” running back Dexter McCluster said. “Being a competitor, being a football player, knowing what’s at state, he’s going to be out there.”
Kansas City coach Todd Haley said he also expects Cassel to start against the Bills, just as he’s said all along, and added that his quarterback has looked particularly good in practice this week.
Even Bills coach Chan Gailey expects to see Cassel on the field.
“You try to read into it where things are. Right now, we read into it that it looks like Matt will play, so we plan on Matt playing and we’ll adjust it if the other guy plays,” Gailey said. “Right now we’ve got to assume he’s going to play and everything’s going just normal as business goes for them.”
Much like the rest of the Chiefs, Cassel was having a miserable preseason even before Howard sacked him in the second quarter last Thursday night.
He was 27 of 44 for 261 yards and a touchdown while playing at least a part of all four losses, and his numbers would have been even worse had he not completed 15 of 17 passes for 129 yards and that lone score before he walked off gingerly to the sideline at Green Bay.
Cassel said he’s confident the Chiefs offense will be able to get up to speed when the game kicks off Sunday. He also warned not to read too much into Kansas City’s struggles during preseason, repeating the often-told line that the only games that matter occur after the regular season begins.
“A lot of things were accomplished throughout camp, and again, the preseason results weren’t how we wanted them. We would have loved to win all four of those games, but it didn’t happen,” Cassel said. “But then again, it’s a whole new ballgame when it starts for real.
“You can say the same thing about last preseason,” Cassel said, referring to the 1-3 record the Chiefs took into the regular season, when they went 10-6. “I don’t think any of us walked out of here and said, ‘Aw, man, we’re super excited.’ But as you get into the season, it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Haley and Cassel answered another big question surrounding the Chiefs on Wednesday when they confirmed that offensive coordinator Bill Muir will be calling the plays.
Muir was moved into the coordinator job when Charlie Weis left for the University of Florida, but there was debate whether Haley — the offensive coordinator when Arizona reached the Super Bowl — or quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn would have play-calling duty when the games started to count.
Zorn will be on the sideline relay to Cassel whatever the coaching staff calls.
“The biggest thing with play calling is the guy who is scripting through the week, that’s really how you get the final fee I believe for calling the plays,” Haley said. “The guy who is doing the majority of that through the week, which is (Muir), ultimately has the best feel for what he feels he’ll see.”