Red Zone

Chiefs stay motivated despite disappointing season

The Chiefs have lost seven straight and at 1-9 are destined for what may be the most disappointing season in franchise history.

But the players insist they haven’t lost their desire to play well during the final six weeks of the season.

”We signed up for 16 games, and every game is huge, especially to this team and this organization,” said outside linebacker Tamba Hali. “The players we’ve got here, we know we can win and that hasn’t been the case, but it would be a shame if our guys are not motivated to play every game.

“We’re playing the good players in the league, elite quarterbacks, so it’s motivating for me. I get up in the morning and I’m happy to be around.”

The Chiefs will face one of the most elite quarterbacks in NFL history on Sunday in Peyton Manning, who has led Denver to a 7-3 record, including five straight wins in his first season with the Broncos.

“We’re all pros out there,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We know anybody can win on Sunday. Denver is playing at a high level right now and they’re kind of rolling

“You have to stay motivated. That comes with being a pro. I’ve been through a few years of losing here if you let it get the best of you it’s been tough, not winning. We know what we have to do on Sunday. We can’t beat ourselves. When the Chiefs make a mistake, it’s a touchdown or a big play “

Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has been pleased with the attitude of his team during a trying season.

“These guys practice good,” Crennel said. “They have good attitudes at practice, they work hard at practice I make it a good point to talk to these guys about being a team and (it’s) not one guy’s fault. We’re all included where we are right now, and we’re the only ones who can do anything about it.

“I know if we continue to pull together and have good attitudes and work to try to get better, some good things will start happening.”

Albert, Lilja sit out

Offensive tackle Branden Albert (back) and center/guard Ryan Lilja (knee) sat out Thursday’s practice, while guard Jon Asamoah practiced with a wrap to protect his broken thumb which kept him out of last week’s game against Cincinnati.

Wide receivers Jon Baldwin (head) and Dwayne Bowe (head/neck), tight ends Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and Steve Maneri (ankle) were limited but should be available to play on Sunday.

Crennel is still hopeful Lilja, who missed last week’s game against Cincinnati, and Albert who left the game in the third quarter, can practice today and play on Sunday.

“We’d like to see them practice (today),” Crennel said, “but generally with veterans, I’ll give them a little more leeway, particularly if they’re important veterans. They know what it takes, they know what their bodies are telling them, and they are pretty up front about where they are and what they think they can do. So I’ll give them as much as I can before making a decision.”

Double duty for tight ends

Crennel said earlier in the week the Chiefs would have to work on their H-protection against Denver, the NFL’s leader in sacks with 35, and that protection includes tight ends helping the offensive tackles.

During individual drills on Thursday, both Moeaki and Maneri worked with the offensive tackles. If Albert is unable to play, rookie Donald Stephenson would start at left tackle and have the unenviable duty of lining up against right end Elvis Dumervil, the NFL sack leader in 2009 who has eight sacks this year. Linebacker Von Miller, who plays the strong side linebacker spot, leads the AFC with 13 sacks.

KU connections

Former Kansas cornerback Chris Harris, who made the Broncos roster as an undrafted rookie free agent last season, is one of four NFL players -- and the only defensive back -- to record multiple interceptions and sacks this season.

Harris, who has started the last six games, has two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 2.5 sacks. Harris, playing opposite 11-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, ranks seventh on the club with 42 tackles.

“He seems to be a playmaker,” Crennel said. “He’s around the football gets his hands on balls he has good ability. There are a lot of undrafted players who are good players in the NFL. We would like to think this is an exact science, but it’s not.”

Another former Jayhawk, linebacker Steven Johnson, made the club this year as an undrafted rookie and has appeared in five games on special teams.

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