As the Kansas City Chiefs move closer to the 2012 NFL Draft, the stark reality facing offensive guard Ryan Lilja is that his competition might be announced soon. With names like David DeCastro and Kevin Zeitler often linked to the Chiefs in mock drafts in the first two rounds, Lilja has to realize that it could be difficult to stave off a challenger for his spot on the Chiefs line.
His quotes in a new article in the Star with reporter Adam Teicher gives an honest assessment of his conditioning in 2011 with the truncated lockout. It’s a sign that he has some work ahead of him and that he has questions himself:
"I don’t want to blame not having an offseason program last year because I’ve been doing this long enough that I shouldn’t need one," said Lilja, who played at Shawnee Mission Northwest and Kansas State. "So I didn’t know. Sometimes I lost sleep about it. Am I am step slower? Am I weaker? Is it age? It can’t be age. Most guys who are 30 are kind of peaking, at least the linemen.
"But maybe it’s that I need this program. I got so far away from it last year. I was training but I was boxing. I was swimming. I was doing stupid stuff like beating on tires with a sledgehammer. I was so far away from footwork stuff that we need to do and getting into a stance and coming out of a stance. So maybe getting back to football stuff this spring will help me."
Lilja’s right that linemen peak around his age. Brian Waters, 35, just made the Pro Bowl and he’s five years older than Lilja at 30. Scott Wells is 31, but did the same. Logan Mankins and Jason Peters were also Pro Bowl linemen in 2011-12, and they are the same age as Lilja. In short, it’s not about aging. Instead, it’s about maintaining an ability to play at a high level — something the former K-State star is in control of.