Holmes puts in appearance at Chiefs minicamp.
By Doug Tucker, The Associated Press 5/10/2003
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Like the natural entertainer that he is, Priest Holmes made an entrance that was dramatic and exciting and sure to please the crowd.
The NFL's offensive player of the year, a virtual public recluse since a mysterious hip injury ended his magnificent 2002 season, unexpectedly emerged Saturday from the east tunnel of Arrowhead Stadium.
Accompanied by public relations director Bob Moore, Holmes strolled slowly onto the lush green field and made his way to the 50-yard line, electrifying about 2,500 fans who'd just spent two hours watching the Kansas City Chiefs conduct a two-hour workout.
If there was a hitch in that award-winning get-along, it was hard to detect. Holmes walked deliberately toward his teammates. With almost each step, cheers and howls erupted as the crowd began to notice what was happening.
Was there a slight limp? Some observers thought maybe there was. Others said there was not.
Certainly, there was no clear-cut sign that the injury and accompanying arthroscopic surgery would keep Holmes from reporting to training two months from now, fully ready to go.
But there was no sign that it would not, either.
After making a few rah-rah remarks to the crowd, Holmes disappeared into the off-limits locker room without speaking with more than a dozen reporters clamoring to talk with him for the first time since he went down last Dec. 15.
"I think he's just tired of answering questions about the hip," said coach Dick Vermeil.
Holmes, in fact, has answered very few questions publicly. The Chiefs, who took a running back in the first round of last month's draft, say that although Holmes is not yet able to practice, he will be running full speed in June and fully ready for camp in July.
They also dismiss speculation their All-Pro may demand to renegotiate after rushing for a team-record 1,615 yards, catching 70 passes for another 672 and scoring 24 touchdowns in fewer than 14 full games.
Their bravado is understandable.
With an offense that was one of the league's most explosive last year and numerous upgrades on defense, a healthy Holmes may be all the Chiefs need for a Super Bowl run in Vermeil's third year.
Simply having him on the field in front of the crowd seemed to energize the team, as well as the fans.
"It's big that he's here," quarterback Trent Green said.
After Vermeil and Green had addressed the crowd, Holmes took the microphone and brought the fans to their feet.
They were cheering and hooting so loud, it was hard sometimes to understand exactly what he was telling them.
"Let's go, let's go, let's pump it up," he began.
"Now I hear there's a lot of questions going out there. I want to tell my fans. Don't be dismayed. Don't be led astray. Don't be confused. We're coming this year in 2003. This is the new Kansas City Chiefs. Let me hear you. Let me hear you."
As the crowd hooted, he continued.
"I've heard even more questions. What about Dick Vermeil? It's the third year. Where's that championship?
"I've heard about a guy, Priest Holmes. What's up with the hip? I ain't going nowhere, baby, I'm right here. And we're winning this year!"
Green said later the timing and spectacle of Holmes' entrance made sense.
"I guess from a PR standpoint, it probably was a good move," he said.
"He's been here the last couple of days and he's been rehabbing. It's obviously not good for him to stand out there during practice all the time. That's not going to do his hip any good. So he might as well get some rehab in."
Vermeil insisted the bravado surrounding his running back is not false.
"All the second-guessing and questioning and the things we've been accused of with his hip, that's for the media," he said. "It has nothing to do with whatever went on from the very first time he hurt his hip, to the decision to get it scoped and cleaned out to where he is right now.
"I have confidence that we know what we're doing."