KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Todd Haley's reality weight-loss show lasted just one season.
A year after focusing on flubber, the Kansas City Chiefs and their fitness-first coach have spent the first week of organized team activities actually working on football-related exercises instead of just exercising.
The Chiefs, it seems, have finally bought into Haley's way of thinking and rallied around their second-year coach.
"There's a different sense in this locker room where we're ready to move forward and ready to worry about football," linebacker Mike Vrabel said Wednesday. "Guys can concentrate on football and try to help us win games."
That wasn't the case a year ago.
In Haley's first season as a head coach, he and the players went through a get-to-know-you spell during their first on-field activities.
The Chiefs had become used to Herm Edwards' arm-around-the-shoulder ways and Haley's finger-pointing, spit-flying tactics took many of them offguard. If that wasn't bad enough, Haley was going to make them get into shape or else, forcing players to pass a fitness test before they were allowed to hit the field at training camp.
The Chiefs collectively lost more than 300 pounds, but the offseason workouts were more about scales and measuring tapes than Z-routes and four-techniques. That put Kansas City behind before the season even started and they never really caught up, finishing a disappointing 4-12.
Of course, there were plenty of reasons beyond the late fitness start — a weak offensive line, issues in the defensive secondary, quarterback Matt Cassel's mediocre year — but it all started in those early, lung-searing days of the offseason.
"When you get into guys cutting weight or losing at the back end, your body is not acclimated to that weight, your energy levels are affected, all kinds of things," Haley said. "So the earlier you're in the condition you want to be in or close to your peak condition, the better."
Haley's fitness philosophy impacted Kansas City's biggest players the most.
Players like defensive end Glenn Dorsey and tackle Branden Albert could get away with being a little sloppy with their technique if they were big, relying on beef and brawn to move opponents. Once Haley forced them to drop weight, technique became more important and it took a while to catch up.
"You've got to learn to play with real good technique with some of those bulk positions, where when you're real big and heavy you can get away with things and can be lazy, play a little more upright," Haley said. "I just believe for guys to play four quarters and be at their best, they've got to be at a weight that suits them."
His team seems to finally agree.
Collectively, the Chiefs are in much better shape than a year ago. Instead of hounding players for being winded, Haley is able to concentrate on teaching technique.
This growth-without-girth has created a feeling of solidarity around the locker room and on the field, enhanced by Vrabel and guard Brian Waters showing up for the voluntary workouts.
Those two veterans were no-shows except for the mandatory workouts last year, Vrabel because he wasn't thrilled about being traded from New England, Waters because of a didn't-go-so-well meeting with Haley shortly after the coach was hired.
Vrabel and Waters are not only here, they're front and center, leading the team in the weight room, on the field, creating a bond they hope will carry into the season.
"There's no doubt when you have a presence like Brian Waters or Mike Vrabel, it has a positive impact," Haley said. "Along with the guys who are showing clear leadership for us making that step, from last year to this year at this point, it's not even close."
Maybe now Haley has created a new reality show, one that will have the Chiefs winning consistently for the first time in a while.
At least his players will be in shape for it.