Holmes eager to show doubters that he's OK
By Mike Finger
San Antonio Express-News
06/28/2003 12:00 AM
One by one, they came hurdling over a row of tackling dummies, charging with reckless abandon toward the man with the attention-grabbing smile and the rumor-grabbing hip.
Decked out in denim shorts and a white T-shirt, Priest Holmes wasn't moving quickly enough for observers to tell if what they saw was a fully healed superstar or an ailing All-Pro with a hint of a limp.
But as the kids kept coming at him — first a few skinny 8-year-olds, then a burly pre-teen with a summer mo-hawk — Holmes snatched each one up with more gusto than most people had seen from the Kansas City running back since he suffered an ugly season-ending injury last December.
And because Holmes was just three months removed from arthroscopic surgery, one had to wonder what Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil would think of Holmes' roughhousing at All Sports' "Football Camp with the Pros" at Alamo Heights on Friday?
"He would love that," said Holmes, a former Marshall and University of Texas standout. "Coming out here and playing with these kids is what gives me energy."
But it's not Holmes' energy that many in Kansas City are wondering about.
Ever since the NFL offensive player of the year, was dragged down from behind during the 14th game of last season — bruising his right hip and leaving him two touchdowns and 142 yards-from-scrimmage short of tying single-season league records — there have been conflicting reports about the severity of his injury.
Holmes has undergone extensive rehabilitation work with the Chiefs' staff and with local trainer Bay Bay McClinton, and Kansas City officials have said publicly they expect him to be ready for the start of next season. But the Chiefs' aggressive attempts to land other running backs — they reportedly pursued Arizona's Thomas Jones before selecting Penn State star Larry Johnson in the first round of the NFL Draft — have reinforced the rumblings that Holmes may not be able to return to his old form.
Holmes said Friday he feels healthy and expects to be ready for training camp, and also said he isn't worried about convincing anyone of his comeback until then.
"Even though I say it's 100 percent," Holmes said, "somebody else is going to say I was limping."
Holmes attended the Chiefs' minicamp in May, and even though he didn't participate, his teammates sounded encouraged by his progress.
"I've talked to him several times and he seems very confident that he's going to be back," quarterback Trent Green told reporters in Kansas City. "With his work ethic and the way he trains, he's going to do everything he has to do."
While he works to get back into playing shape, Holmes is reportedly upset with his current contract. He is entering the third season of a five-year, $8 million deal — quite a bargain for a player who accounted for 2,169 combined rushing and receiving yards in 2001 and then had 2,287 more in 2002.
In February, Holmes told the Kansas City Star, "I deserve to be paid more." And of his contract, which he signed when he was expected to be the Chiefs' third-down back after leaving Baltimore in 2000, he said, "Tear it up and start over. It's obvious everything's different now."
But on Friday, Holmes sounded less concerned about renegotiating his deal.
"They're going to do whatever it takes to make me happy," he said of the Chiefs.
Holmes said that even includes the addition of Johnson, who led the nation in rushing last season at Penn State.
Although the Chiefs' defense was largely to blame for keeping them out of the playoffs in 2002, they still decided to spend their first-round draft pick on Johnson, presumably to provide themselves with insurance in case Holmes doesn't recover.
But Holmes said he wasn't upset by the selection. In fact, the two running backs spent some time together during a commercial shoot in Orlando last week, where Holmes said he had the chance to "splash some water on the rookie."
"I've already played with some of the best running backs in the league (Ricky Williams and Jamal Lewis), and they made me better," Holmes said. "So I'm really excited about doing it again."