ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — With muggy heat in the 90s separating the fit from the fat, the Kansas City Chiefs are ready to launch their second training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., but will do so without four-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters.
The Chiefs announced late Thursday that Waters, who played 11 years in Kansas City and was named to the Pro Bowl four times, had been given his release.
"Brian has played a key role in our progress and I am personally grateful for his contributions to this team," general manager Scott Pioli said in a team news release. "He and I had a good discussion and mutually agreed that this is a sound football decision for both Brian and the Chiefs. Brian has been an integral part of this organization and will always be part of the Kansas City Chiefs. We wish him nothing but the best."
Waters came into the league as an undrafted free agent with Dallas in 1999 and joined the Chiefs in 2000. He quickly became one of the most dominant left guards in the league and was instrumental in the Chiefs leading the NFL in rushing last season.
Active on and off the field, he was named NFL man of the year in 2009. He was also a key member of the players' negotiation team during the four-month lockout.
"I'd like to thank the entire Chiefs organization, especially for giving me an opportunity as a young player when other teams wouldn't," Waters said. "I'm grateful for the coaches, teammates and support staff who helped me become the player and man I am today. I'd also like to thank the fans of Kansas City who cheered us on. The Chiefs and I have mutually agreed on this decision and although I look forward to continuing my career, I'll always have a special place in my heart for Kansas City."
Waters could be replaced by second-year guard Jon Asamoah.
When practice opens at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Coach Todd Haley and his staff will be keeping an eye on everybody the first few days to make sure everyone's in shape after being on their own for more than four months during the NFL lockout. Otherwise, quarterback Matt Cassel will be getting adjusted to his fourth offensive coordinator in three years and the Chiefs will be preparing to defend their first AFC West title since 2003.
"It looks to me that everybody's in pretty good shape," said linebacker Andy Studebaker. "It's good to get back. Training camp's part of the process. It's a grind and we're going to be here a few weeks. But there are some things you have to overcome if we're going to get to where we want to go, we've got to start here."
Cassel organized a three-day, players-only workout in June that drew a large number of players to Kansas City. Friday's practice will be the Chiefs' first supervised workout since March.
A big piece of last year's success is missing. After one year as offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis opted to return to college coaching and take a similar job at Florida. During Weis' one season, the Chiefs made a huge breakthrough, going 10-6 and winning the AFC West and leading the NFL in rushing. He also oversaw the development of Matt Cassel into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
In his place steps Bill Muir, who was in charge of the offensive line. Muir was also offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay from 2002-08.
Apparently, one little detail to be worked out during camp is who will call plays, Muir or Haley.
Haley, a former offensive coordinator at Arizona, called plays and was in charge of the offense his first year with the Chiefs in 2009. Haley said earlier this week that play-calling was still not decided upon.
Whoever ends up with the job will command a growing array of weaponry. One major training camp goal will be sorting out everybody in what appears to be KC's most potent attack since Priest Holmes, Trent Green and Tony Gonzalez were setting team records eight years ago.
In addition to Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs will be adding wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, a first-round pick out of Pittsburgh, and veteran wide receiver Steve Breaston, a veteran free agent from Arizona. A person confirmed on Thursday that Breaston, who played for Haley for two years when he was offensive coordinator at Arizona, had come to terms with Kansas City.
"I'm not real sure of our capabilities. We haven't stepped onto the field yet," said Cassel. "But I'm really excited to get out there and start working with these guys and building toward the season. We've got to take advantage of this small time that we have. I think we've got 21 practices leading up to our first preseason game and we've got to get going."
The biggest loss on defense, the retirement of linebacker Mike Vrabel, is also a huge opportunity for Studebaker. As Vrabel's backup, Studebaker has been slowly groomed for the job. This will probably be the biggest training camp of Studebaker's career.
"It's not going to be handed to me on a platter," he said. "But I am going to work for it. It's a goal. We have a lot of guys who are going to compete for that spot. That's what it's all about here at camp."