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Chiefs’ elite eight players have shown staying power

Updated: 2014-01-04T03:51:51Z

By RANDY COVITZ

The Kansas City Star

They’ve played for three general managers, for as many as five head coaches and alongside more than 200 teammates.

It’s a select group of eight Chiefs who were brought in by the regime of former general manager Carl Peterson and have experienced more than their share of highs and lows in Kansas City since 2005.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson, punter Dustin Colquitt, linebacker Tamba Hali, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, tackle Branden Albert, running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Flowers and deep snapper Thomas Gafford have persevered and combined for 12 Pro Bowls. Saturday’s AFC wild-card game at Indianapolis will be the third playoff appearance for three of them and the second for the others.

Here are their thoughts on the good times and bad times they’ve experienced, and how it makes them appreciate the Chiefs’ 11-5 season in 2013, especially after coming off a 2-14 year in 2012.

ILB Derrick Johnson

First-round pick, 2005. Two-time Pro Bowler, 2011 Chiefs MVP

“We look back and see all what we’ve been through, and it makes this year that much sweeter. Guys ask us about stories: ‘Hey, what was it like when Dick Vermeil was here? When Herm (Edwards) was here?’ We stuck through thick and thin, and we’re seeing the results now.

“This is what you play the game for. To go through a season like we went through last year, on and off the field, you wouldn’t dream of this. My hat’s off to the organization for sticking in there with us and keeping the core guys.

“My first year, we go 10-6 and missed the playoffs; the second year, 9-7 and made it. I thought it was going to be like that every year. Then after that (we) didn’t come back until 2010. It makes you appreciate this season even more.

“Every win is gratifying. For an older guy, I can tell the younger guys, ‘Take advantage of it.’ ”

OLB Tamba Hali

First-round draft pick, 2006. Three-time Pro Bowler. 2010 AFC sack leader.

“We set our goals at the beginning of the season … some of those goals we’ve achieved, but the ultimate goal is to get to the Super Bowl. It’s gratifying, the guys who have put in the work and stuck around, but it won’t be as gratifying until we can accomplish some things like win a playoff game, which is always the hang-up on our team, hearing, ‘Oh, we haven’t won a playoff game since ’93 …’

“The toughest part has been always knowing we’ve had a good team. We just didn’t find a way to win with the organization that was in at the time.”

P Dustin Colquitt

Third-round draft pick, 2005. Pro Bowler, 2012.

“This group is resilient; we have a certain work ethic about us … we’re professionals at our job. We know our role, know our job and we try to stick to that.

“Everybody knows what’s gone on in the past year. Whether it’s the 2-14 record and overcoming circumstances … when you have tough times, you have to seek individuals who are tough. When you can’t handle something, you have to depend on people who have seen tougher times … whether it’s been in their lives or in a football situation.

“My dad (Craig) played for Super Bowl champions in his rookie and second year in the league (with Pittsburgh in 1978-79), and they didn’t sniff a whole lot (of success) after that. He got spoiled. We’re relishing the moment and the opportunity and trying to explain to the guys, ‘This is a unique opportunity we have with each other.”’

WR Dwayne Bowe

First-round pick, 2007. Pro Bowler, 2010. Led NFL with 15 TD catches in 2010.

“We’re a family. This feels good for the guys who have been through it. We talk about it all the time, how the guys who have been here before know what it takes to win now. If it takes a loss … or things to happen for you to know where we need to go …We’ve got to get the younger guys who just got on the train to know that every play counts, and guys are on board right now.”

CB Brandon Flowers

Second-round pick, 2008. First-time Pro Bowl pick in 2013.

“We worked hard, we kept pushing, we never gave up, we never said we wanted to go somewhere else and stuck through it. We knew it would get better. The owner did a great job of bringing in the players and the coaches to make it happen.

“We knew the NFL is tough. You can go to the playoffs one year and win two games the next. Every year is a different year. We don’t take this year for granted. Before, we went to the playoffs (and) there wasn’t that sense of urgency. But now, you don’t know the next time you get back. So we definitely take every game like it’s our last.

“I never thought about leaving. I love being here. This is the team that brought me from college. They gave me my first chance to play in the NFL. And the owner is so great … I’ve never had any problems here. Great locker room … great fan base … Even when we were losing, still fans came out to the games. To me, where else would you want to be?

“This year, bringing in the key pieces … Alex Smith … Sean Smith … players that fit the mold to take us where we want to go.”

OT Branden Albert

First-round pick, 2008. First-time Pro Bowler, 2013.

“It feels good that we’re winning and going to the playoffs, but we still have some work to do. We all have a bond — not just us, but guys who have been here and guys who are new. We have a common goal, and that’s to get Ws, and that’s what we’ve been doing, and hopefully we’ll continue that. The season is going to be special when you’re winning.”

RB Jamaal Charles

Third-round pick, 2008. Three-time Pro Bowler, 2013. Led NFL with 19 TDs in 2013.

“It’s been a blessing this season, because the last couple years, we’ve been through all kinds of situations, losing seasons, tragedy. It opens your eyes up a lot, because you see so many people work hard … We deserve this. We’ve wanted this, and now we’re here. And now it’s up to us to execute and make it happen.

“I’ve been to Super Bowl games where I sat in the stands. I’ve been to Super Bowl games where the events, every year, it’s just boring when you’re not (playing) in the Super Bowl. It’s fun, but not playing in one, why can’t we do it?

“We’re in the playoffs. It’s possible — anything is possible. Our goal is to go to the Super Bowl. We know it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be very hard. A lot of people have to sacrifice a lot of things, a lot of people have to put their own things to the side and focus. There’s a sense of urgency.”

LS Thomas Gafford

Free agent, 2008. Has played in 89 consecutive games.

“It feels great to do it with these guys. During those hard times, we were all scratching our heads, asking, ‘How is this happening?’ Because we have so much talent. So it feels good to do it with these guys who are great, high-character, extremely talented athletes.

“We had it all along; we just needed to get pointed in the right direction. We’re as much a family as any football team has ever been … to know we could all do this together is something special. To see all our hard work paying off, and to see the success these (eight) guys have had, is awesome.”

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/randycovitz.

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