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August 15, 2007

What's Up With Priest Holmes?!? « Kansas City Chiefs »

The numbers on Priest Holmes:
Played 9 seasons, now age 33
108 games, rushes: 1734 yds: 8035 ypc: 4.6 TDs: 86
catches: 344 yds: 2945 ypc: 8.8 TDs: 8
3 straight seasons with 300+ carries, and slightly less than 400 touches overall.

There are many questions surrounding Priest Holmes' comeback attempt. Is Priest Holmes serious? Can Holmes make the team and contribute? Will he contribute? If not, is this Priest's scheme to grab some of the limelight? Or is this Carl Peterson's scheme to put pressure on Larry Johnson? Or is Priest just after cash?

Let's see if we can answer these questions, and more:

Is Carl Peterson using the situation to pressure LJ? It doesn't seem likely. Carl Peterson has always had a good relationship with Larry Johnson; moreover, it is unlikely LJ will need the pre-season carries, particularly after setting the record for carries last year. No, if Carl Peterson wanted to pressure Larry Johnson to cave on his contract demands, there are better ways. This is how he'd go about it: "Michael [Bennett] has had a good camp. He came into camp with the mind-set of wanting to be a part of the offense this year, whether RB Larry Johnson was here or not. And he needs to be a part of this offense. That's why we brought him in." But it wasn't Carl Peterson who said that, it was Herm Edwards, Head Coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. It sounds like Priest isn't part of the pressure package at all. In fact, since many fans and experts doubt that Priest Holmes can come back, doesn't that mean Priests' presence in camp shouldn't scare Larry at all?

Since CP doesn't seem to be running a squeeze play, then is Priest just reporting to camp to bask in the limelight of the Hard Knocks program? Again, it seems extremely unlikely. Priest has never been one to hog the spotlight. He doesn't give many interviews. He didn't take advantage of his brief span of rushing excellence to grab endorsement contracts. He did give an interview on July 29 that seemed rather self-aggrandizing, saying:

"I come to this team as a leader and I think 22 months off can say a lot. If I can make that comeback after 22 months off with the discipline of working and can make it and can continue on despite any obstacle, its going to prove so much to the team...I can sum it up this way: the sum of all parts is always greater as a whole. As individual parts theres only so much one can accomplish. So I believe to make this team a whole entity it takes several parts and one of them entails me coming back."

On the other hand, Holmes is a philosophical, idealistic guy. I'll come back to that interview in a second, because he revealed some other things that are important.

Is Priest just trying to get an injury settlement? Maybe. There is no way to know at this time; we'll see soon enough, but the answer to the next question should help answer this question in the negative.

Is Priest serious about coming back? I think the answer is yes. In the same interview, Priest also said:

"Nothing is done without risk. Risk taking is what has gotten most of you journalistsyou have to take some risks. Ive always been a risk taker. Theres no doubt I would not have been in the position Im in without taking some risk. That started a long time ago...I think the biggest thing youll see right now is the encouragement and the things I can give guys especially the young guy. To comeback is something anyone can do as long as they persevere...Im gonna tell you today that in order for me to come back its going to require discipline, hard work and determination. One thing thats always been said is that without struggle there is no purpose. I definitely will struggle in the next four weeks to come back to the level you need to get back into pads... But I would tell you when you have a vision and a purpose in mind and you can actually set a target anything can be accomplished."

That sounds like someone who is serious.

Moreover, despite the drama surrounding his "dream" to return to the NFL, he did say throughout 2006 he would return. According to the Wikipedia entry on Priest Holmes:

Throughout the 2006 season, Holmes repeatedly voiced that he would like to return for at least two or three more seasons in the NFL. He had stated however that he will not force a comeback in the event that it could be detrimental to his long term health. As of mid- October 2006 he was still reportedly considering a comeback attempt but has not practiced since 2005 and would have to be cleared by a doctor before he could resume practicing.
(from a Fox Sports article, but they seem to have purged the article, the link points to a defunct page)


Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said that medical tests on Holmes have been encouraging and Holmes hopes to return for the 2007 season. On July 25, 2007, the day before the Chiefs were scheduled to leave for training camp, Priest Holmes asked the Chiefs if he could attend camp. Holmes has recently announced that he will be attending training camp for the 2007-08 season. (From From ESPN

Let's not forget, Priest came back from a serious knee injury in college. He also injured his knee with the Ravens. Then he came back from a serious hip injury that ended his season in 2002. Then he came back from another strained knee that ended his 2004 season. Now he's coming back from yet anther serious injury; this time off of 22 months of rest. Except for the last injury, he never showed any lasting effects from any of the injuries. I wouldn't bet against him.

Even if Priest is serious, can he make the team and contribute? Yes. There are significant numbers of RBs who play to age 33 and beyond. If you think about it, RBs have the same muscles, tendons, circulation system as anyone else, as any other player. It isn't age that makes RBs decline at age 30, but abuse. Priest has taken less hits than most, and far less hits than almost all RBs that played to age 33 and beyond. I started going through the list of NFL RBs, and I clicked on any player that had played in more than 100 games. Before I even got to the end of the "B"s, I found 12 RBs who played at age 33 or later:
RBs playing after age 33:

Richie Anderson, 35
Ottis Anderson, 35
Marcus Allen, 37
Kimble Anders, 36
Terry Allen, 33
Jerome Bettis, 33
*Woody Bennett, 33
James Brooks, 34
*Bill Brown, 36
*Norm Bulaich, 33
Keith Byers, 35
Earnest Byner, 35

I had never heard of the guys with the asterisks. They played in the pre-Terry Allen days when a knee injury meant Career Over. Sports Medicine has advanced light-years since the 70s, so I expect we'll see more and more RBs continuing to contribute into their 30s. It really seems as if age itself is no reason Priest can't contribute.

Can Holmes take a hit? Yes.
He's not fragile; he's a strong, muscular man in great shape. He won't snap if hit by a charging linebacker. Here's what Priest himself says about the issue:

"Definitely I can take a hit. Ill tell you I took the hardest hit when I was in high school. Being young and being tough and getting into an argument with a guy, one thing turned into another and he hit me with a bat across the head. I was down and came back If I can be hit in such a way theres none that can match it...With Dave Price, our head trainer, and our strength and conditioning coach, Cedric [Smith] theyre definitely going to help prepare me to be on the level that I need to be on in order to return and take any kind of hit.

Will Priest make it back and contribute? There's no way to know for sure until he does it. However, Priest has defied odds several times in his career. His strengths as a RB were vision and patience, not speed/power/explosiveness; those shouldn't fade with age, so he should still have those.

Personally, I'm thinking he will contribute. Priest is an idealist, and I think he would love leaving a more permanent legacy for the NFL. Despite setting TD records, despite being arguably the best all-around RB in the league from 2001-2004, despite showing a new way for RBs to excel, despite being #17 on the career TD list, and #2 on the active career TD list (behind LaDanian Tomlinson, according to my's hard to find a current top-20 career TD list! I found one from 2002; Priest was #16 and the active leader according to that, but he has 94 total to LDT's current 111), he has no shot at the HoF at this point. However, as of the beginning of the 2006 season, there were only 6 players all time with at least 100 rushing TDs: Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Walter Payton, Jim Brown, John Riggins, and Marshall Faulk; LDT was added by the end of his record-breaking 2007 season. If Priest could manage to get 25 more rushing TDs over 3 seasons, that would put him at #3 behind only Smith and Allen (depending on what Tomlinson ends up with when his career is over). That sort of legacy seems to motivate him more than money. Alternatively, he might want to come back and help win another Super Bowl. Combined with his string of comebacks and amazing TD and total yards performance from 2001 to 2005, either the TD total or another Super Bowl ring would probably be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame.

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