If a call works for the Chiefs, it likely started in the meeting or film room.
Ideas, plans, concepts, mistakes are viewed, discussed and digested in rooms separated by position groups. Experience counts here, as well as on the field.
And it’s missed in the room, as on the field, when a veteran isn’t present.
Safety Eric Berry, one of the Chiefs’ leaders, remains out because he and the Chiefs couldn’t agree on a long-term contract. Berry is expected back soon, and there’s a sense among coaches he’ll be ready for the team’s opener on Sept. 11.
But the Chiefs have had to live without Berry in preseason games, on the practice field and in the meeting room. Players are saving a spot for Berry, who will start his seventh season when he reports.
“It’s Eric’s room,” second-year cornerback Marcus Peters said. “We’re missing him now, we want him back ASAP, but we can’t do anything about it.”
Except make do. The secondary is working through issues in the preseason. Peters, coming off his NFL defensive rookie of the year season, holds down one corner. The Chiefs have used variations at the other.
Steven Nelson started the preseason opener. The Chiefs opened in a nickel last weekend against the Rams with rookies Eric Murray and D.J. White at corner. Phillip Gaines is making his way back from off-season knee surgery, although he hasn’t played in either preseason game.
In both games, the corner opposite Peters got off to a rough start before recovering. The Seahawks in the opener and the Rams last week logged long drives against the starters, a group that hasn’t included Berry and outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
At safety, Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen have gotten starts. Earlier in camp, Sorensen pointed the finger at Parker as a source for the younger players.
“He’s really stepped into the leadership role as opposed to years past,” Sorensen said.
Among defensive backs, only Berry has more NFL years than Parker, who is beginning his sixth. The first two were spent with the Raiders, Panthers and Seahawks. Parker joined the Chiefs for the 2013 season and has been a starter each of the past two seasons at safety and cornerback.
He takes his leadership role seriously.
“With Eric not here I’ve tried to step up a little more, and be a little bit more vocal to the younger guys,” Parker said. “We don’t have many older guys in the room. I try to play my part and share my knowledge with the younger guys. I’ve been speaking up a little more than usual.”
Parker said he’s become more vocal over the past couple of seasons. He entered the NFL as a longshot, an undrafted free agent from Newberry College, a Division II program in South Carolina. He’s found a home with the Chiefs, who awarded him a five-year, $30 million contract after the 2014 season.
“The past couple of years, I’ve worked my way to this point,” Parker said.
The room and the secondary will have a more full feeling when Berry returns. Until then, it’s up to the players to sort things out.
“We’ve got Ron and he’s been stepping up,” Peters said. “I’m trying to make my place as it comes.”