Tamba Hali has held his tongue, and his frustration, in for a long time.
The time for that, however, has come to an end, as Hali not only questioned his lack of playing time down the stretch last season in a string of tweets on Saturday — which were authentic, sources told The Star — he also seemed to question a handful of his teammates’ decisions to skip organized team activities on a podcast which posted the same day.
“I’m not going to shy from it — I think it’s important, especially if you’re on our team and you’re one of our leaders — that you should be always there,” Hali said on the Arrowheads Abroad Podcast, which posted Saturday. “I don’t want to say names, but I’ve been there for 12th year, and I haven’t missed one offseason with the Chiefs.
“Whoever is on our team and is expected to be a leader, we need those guys there. Because the younger guys come in and see these guys like, ‘I want to be like him — he’s makes a lot of money and he’s here, he’s working.’ It builds such chemistry for our team. I’ve tried not to talk on it, but it really hurts my feelings because I know how much I love the game and I want those guys to be there so we can all get on the same page and make this run.”
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Hali — who also alluded to this belief in a string of Tweets — did not name any of his teammates by name. However, three of the Chiefs’ Pro Bowl defenders — safety Eric Berry, outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Marcus Peters — skipped all of organized team activities, while outside linebacker Dee Ford — who led the team in sacks and pressures a year ago — also skipped part of OTAs.
Meanwhile, Hali and fellow inside linebacker Derrick Johnson — two of the longest-tenured Chiefs — were present during OTAs, despite the fact neither participated in the practices.
“Sometimes, that chemistry is lost when you’re on your own time; you go somewhere else and do your own thing,” he said. “I understand it’s a business, but as far as football goes, when we’re on the field, there’s no business. The business is to get (butt) ... I encourage anyone that’s on our team, that feels they’re a leader, should be around our team, 24/7, when they’re supposed to be there.”
A source told The Star in January that Hali, 33, plans to play four more seasons, and his string of Tweets on Saturday were also indicative of a man who clearly believes he has more in the tank and was annoyed by his usage down the stretch last season after everything he’s given to the organization.
One thing that has stuck in Hali’s craw since January was the fact he logged only seven snaps — 10 fewer than defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins and five fewer than Frank Zombo — in the Chiefs’ bitterly-disappointing 18-16 divisional loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m a team player first,” Hali wrote on Twitter. “Anything for the team. Yet I’m not done knocking QB’s heads off but seven plays won’t cut it.”
That seven-snap performance came after he logged an average of 28 snaps in the last four regular-season games, and ranked third on the team in sacks (3 1/2) and pressures (nine) despite playing only 51 percent of the defensive snaps, down from 77 percent a year ago.
“I was told the reason I wasn’t playing was they wanted me fresh for the playoff,” Hali wrote.
Hali also noted that he played 58 snaps in the Chiefs’ season opener — their miraculous 33-27 comeback win over San Diego — and expressed frustration at logging only 15 snaps in a December win over Oakland, in which Houston and Ford logged 68 and 66 snaps, respectively.
“Am I needed in KC anymore?” he wrote.
For the last year and a half, the Chiefs have allowed Hali to sit out practices, which coach Andy Reid has repeatedly described in an attempt to save his balky knees.
Hali, however, also made it clear Saturday that he was healthy last season and the year before, and that he had a scope on them — not a major procedure.
“The result of playing for a long time,” he wrote.
So in his mind, using his knees as an excuse for his lack of playing time doesn’t fly.
“I’ve played through all my injuries I’ve acquired throughout my career, not sitting out because I did not feel I wouldn’t be at my best,” he wrote.
Hali then circled back to his years of service for the team, as the five-time Pro Bowler noted that while he’s been a Chief since 2006, he has a lengthy, distinguished record of showing up for workouts, even in the offseason, something he clearly feels should be appreciated.
“I haven’t missed any off-season workouts in 11 years w/the Chiefs,” he wrote. “I’ve played in every game except four in my 11-year career with the Chiefs.”
Hali then circled back to the Chiefs’ noticeable absences during OTAs, insinuating that the Chiefs’ defensive stars should have been there.
“Let’s look at the Super Bowl champs I am sure they had 100% attendance for OTAS AND OFFSEASON WORKOUTS this year,” he wrote, referring to the New England Patriots. “I may be wrong.”
Despite all that, Hali — who has a $8.5 million cap number this season and would create $1.25 million in cap space (and $7.3 million in dead money) with his release, since it’s after June 1— still made it clear he still wants to be a Chief this season, adding that this year’s team is “stacked” and he’s excited for the season. He just wants to contribute like he knows he can.
“So people are curious if I’m holding out or got cut — no to both,” Hali wrote. “I want to play more.
“I never played for money; please. I’m fed. I want more time on the field. Simple.”
The Chiefs will make chairman Clark Hunt, Reid and new general manager Brett Veach available for interviews on Monday.