Even as the NFL Lockout drags on through the summer, Kansas City Chiefs fans can take heart a vast majority of players have come together for workouts that starting right guard Ryan Lilja terms as harder than he believed they would be. It's a sign of a professional team ready to do the work ahead of them and an intensity to keep up the ongoing success they experienced together last year in Todd Haley's second year as Head Coach.
In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Lilja gave several replies to questions about the practice, the shape of the team and the status of the lockout. When asked about the lockout itself, Lilja admitted it was frustrated and causing a lot of negatives for the players. "Unfortunately, we're all well-versed in the legal jargon right now and our player reps are keeping us up to speed on that," he said. "We just want to get back to work, man. It's a lot of confusion, a lot of boredom. As I said, I think most guys would say they miss being around the other guys."
Lilja also notes that the practice was more intense than he believed it would be and that the guys seem ready to come back and be in good shape, especially as they get around each other.
"You come out and you gauge and look at some other guys and say maybe that you're not where you need to be," says Lilja. "That's always the case. But we didn't get anybody hurt. We were going harder than I thought we were going to go. I thought one-step chill, but we were running out there like there were helmets on, like it was a Friday practice. Guys were moving around and it felt like normal."
Lilja says that staying in the playbook is key to staying crisp and having strong veteran leadership from Matt Cassel definitely helped in the recent workouts.
"For me individually and most of the guys on the offensive line, going in there and doing some study work and dusting off the playbook really helps out. Then coming out here and doing those reps on the field and having Matt [Cassel] roll through stuff in the cadence, it just felt crisp to me. So I would have said before this lockout that it was gonna take a lot of time, but like I said, we have good veteran guys, good young guys who are learning. I think that's the formula you need right now to come out and get a couple weeks in and be able to be as crisp as you were this time last year."
Lilja admits that he doesn't know how long it will take the team to be officially game-ready for the season ahead, but he also knows that the Chiefs aren't alone in that struggle.
"I don't know. The only thing I do know is that we're all in the same boat. Nobody has an advantage over another team, so it's good that we got leadership to get guys together. We might do another one of these things if this drags on more, but we'll see what happens."