ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Tamba Hali jogged down the long, grassy hillside to the practice field at Missouri Western State University, the modest crowd on hand for the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice bursting into applause.
Yes, the veterans have finally arrived at training camp.
One day after agreeing to a five-year, $60 million contract, Hali joined the Chiefs in their first full-squad practice since arriving in St. Joseph. Veteran free agents had been unable to participate until Thursday, when the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified and the league year officially began.
Hali joined newcomers such as wide receiver Steve Breaston, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and fullback Le’Ron McClain on the practice fields, donning shoulder pads and helmets on a warm, humid evening.
“It was different, just hanging out, not being here with the guys,” said Gregg, the former Baltimore Ravens lineman who arrived several days ago but has been forced to work out on his own while waiting for the go-ahead to participate in practice. “You want to get here and get acclimated.”
The Chiefs pushed back the start of Thursday’s practice by half an hour in anticipation of the new CBA being ratified. Typically punctual, players didn’t start filtering out of the locker room until about 15 minutes after practice was scheduled to begin — or about the same time word of ratification finally reached them.
Breaston, Gregg and the rest of the veterans wasted no time jumping into the fray.
The former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver lined up in the slot early in practice, and Gregg found himself working with a young group of defensive linemen throughout the nearly 2 ½-hour workout.
General manager Scott Pioli brought in Breaston to give quarterback Matt Cassel another option besides emerging star Dwayne Bowe and first-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin, who did not participate in practice on Thursday because of an undisclosed injury.
Haley was also pleased to have McClain in camp after the former All-Pro fullback agreed to terms on a one-year deal. McClain had a couple of stellar seasons with the Ravens but was relegated to a blocking role for Ray Rice the past couple years, paving the way for one of the league’s dynamic young running backs.
Now he’ll be called upon to do the same for Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.
“Really just coming in and doing anything I can do to help the team win. If I have to block, I’m going to do that. If I need to run, I’ll do that,” McClain said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the Chiefs.”