KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Stanford Routt was no fan of the Oakland Raiders locker room.
Not the guys in it, mind you. He had plenty of friends after seven years with the Raiders, both teammates and those who worked for the franchise.
He just wasn’t a fan of the locker room itself.
“I could touch the ceiling standing up,” Routt said, gazing into the airy expanse of the Kansas City Chiefs’ spacious locker room. “The facilities here are so much better.”
The veteran defensive back is quickly settling into life as a member of his longtime division rival. He loves the hot, humid weather that comes with summer in the Midwest. He’s a huge fan of the relative lack of traffic. He appreciates the slower pace of life.
“It’s been great,” he said after practice Monday. “This was exactly what I was looking for. I spent my whole career in Oakland, and it’s nice to get a fresh start.”
Routt isn’t alone in growing accustomed to the Chiefs.
About a dozen stalls down in the locker room is tight end Kevin Boss, who also spent last year with the Raiders, giving each of them a certain amount of familiarity.
Then there’s the fact that Routt has played against the Chiefs twice a year for his entire career. He came into the new organization with some friendships already established, and that’s allowed him to quickly become part of the culture in Kansas City.
“I think the camaraderie has been the biggest thing, which is important,” said linebacker Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs’ elder statesman on defense. “He’s been able to come in here and get up to speed, and really he’s just one of the guys.”
There were other free agent signings made by Kansas City that generated more attention this offseason. Peyton Hillis will be toting the ball for the Chiefs rather than the Browns, and Eric Winston will be blocking for him rather than the Texans’ Arian Foster.
But it was Routt who may turn out to be the most important.
The Chiefs were unable to keep Brandon Carr, who had emerged as one of the league’s top defensive backs, and he ultimately signed with Dallas. That created a massive void opposite of Brandon Flowers, who Kansas City successfully signed to a long-term deal last year.
When the frenzy of free agency hit, Routt was among the Chiefs’ priorities.
Much has been made of his propensity for penalties — he was flagged 17 times last year, nine of those coming during a three-week stretch. But there’s also the fact that he was playing for the fourth-worst defense in the league, one that allowed nearly 400 yards of offense per game, and was regularly matched up with the opposing team’s top playmaker.
The Raiders fared better against the pass than the run, largely due to Routt, who started 30 of the 32 games that he’s played over the past two seasons.
“Some of his talent is beginning to show up now the more comfortable he gets with the guys around him,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “His abilities begin to show.”
Things haven’t been entirely perfect since arriving in Kansas City.
Routt was covering wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin on a deep ball during one of the Chiefs’ organized team activities last week. Baldwin leaped into the end zone, twisted his body and made a one-handed snare that drew a chorus of “oohs” from just about everyone on the practice field.
Everyone except Routt, that is.
“That’s football. Sometimes you make a play, sometimes he makes one,” Baldwin said. “Like I said, it happens. I’d like to see that happen 20 more times in a row.”
The part about Baldwin making the catch.
Not the part about getting beat.