ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – If this keeps up, Todd Haley is going to lose his well earned reputation as a fire-breathing tough guy.
Kansas City's demanding head coach did not only cancel practice unexpectedly Monday morning and surprise his players with a trip to movies. He lightened the mood even further by playing a practical joke on an unsuspecting assistant coach.
Coming on the heels of a less-than-stellar 20-10 loss in Atlanta in their exhibition opener, the lighthearted levity seemed even more out of place, especially for Haley.
"Just thought timing-wise it was a good thing for all of us," said Haley. "It appeared to me the guys enjoyed it and were grateful."
The Chiefs returned to practice in the afternoon, glad that temperatures that hovered at or near 100 their first week of camp had returned to the 80s.
Haley said he'd been looking for an opportunity to give his players a "team-building" outing, something he never did last year. But he also said that "everything had to go the right way" before he approved the unexpected change in the otherwise exhausting camp routine.
"I feel we're making progress as a group, as a team," Haley said. "And by no means are we there. But we are making progress in some of these things. This year, trying to think outside the box a little bit as we move forward. "
Many of the players were ready for their two-hour morning workout when Haley told them there would be no practice.
"It was great," said punter Dustin Colquitt. "You get to hang out, take the pads off. I'm sure everybody had a good time."
The Chiefs rode buses to a multiplex and were given a choice of movies — "The Expendables," ''The Other Guys" or "Dinner for Schmucks."
They were also told they could order anything from the concession stand, but warned there would be a weigh-in soon to make sure nobody was letting the pounds creep on. That seems unlikely considering that they've worn pads almost every day since camp began.
"They've had a lot of information to digest in a short amount of time, under difficult conditions," Haley said. "Meet, practice, treatment, meet, lift, practice. We're putting a lot on them."
For many players, it was a time to catch up on sleep. Haley said he could hardly hear the dialogue because defensive tackle Shaun Smith "was one row behind me snoring as loud as I've ever heard a human being snore."
Linebacker Derrick Johnson was another who nodded off.
"I didn't make it through the whole movie. I knew I would fall asleep sometime in there. Dark setting. Comfortable seats," he said. "But we had a good time in there as a team, the camaraderie of a team. It was good."
The Chiefs got the good news as they hit the practice field.
"He just called us up right when everybody got on the field and told us, 'Hey, we want to do something as a team today,'" said Johnson. "Everybody started whispering. Everybody knew he was going to throw some kind of bone at us. He gave us a good one."
The day got started with some fun at the expense of Nick Sirianni, the Chiefs' young offensive quality control coach who was a wide receiver at Mount Union.
"We somehow convinced him that he was actually going to be in practice," Haley said with a grin. "Somehow, he believed us and actually put the uniform on. So it was good. We did not have a practice so I figured it would be a day to have a little fun."
Haley said Sirianni took the joke in stride.
"He's a loyal, dedicated coach. That's the positive side of it," said Haley. "I think everybody appreciated it. I said, 'You took one for the team today, Nick. Whatever wins gets us into the playoffs, we'll give you credit for those.'"