NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and strong safety Eric Berry held a conference call with Titans media Wednesday ahead of this weekend's Week 1 matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. Here are the biggest things you need to know from Wednesday's media availability with the Chiefs.
Hungry for More
The arrival of Andy Reid in 2013 led to the biggest turnaround in the NFL. The Chiefs went from a 2-14 record in 2012 to an 11-5 playoff team in 2013. It was the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2010.
A heartbreaking 45-44 loss in the Wild Card round to the Colts left the Chiefs with a bad taste in their mouths going into the offseason. Kansas City squandered a 38-10 third quarter lead, giving up 35 second half points.
"It definitely made us hungrier as a unit," said Berry referring to the playoff loss. "The big thing now is just finishing regardless of what it is – a meeting, a play, a drive, a game -- whatever it is it's all about finishing.
Berry continued to say, "It takes bumps and bruises for you to grow up as a team. I think we know how to handle adversity a lot better and we know how to make adjustments on the fly. I think our communication has definitely gotten a lot better, so we just have to keep moving forward."
Alex Smith has Keys to the Franchise
The 2013 campaign was a career year for Alex Smith, who spent his first seven NFL seasons in San Francisco before being traded to the Chiefs a year ago. Smith posted a modest 3,313 passing yards, but what really stood out was his 23-7 touchdown to interception ratio. His numbers were good enough to earn his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
Just this week the Chiefs announced that Smith had been signed to a four-year contract extension worth $68 million. Reid said he was glad to see the deal get done before the start of the season.
"I think it's good to eliminate that distraction for him, his agent, and John Dorsey (Chiefs GM), so it's always better to get it done," said Reid.
Familiar Faces in Kansas City
Dexter McCluster's return to Kansas City has been a topic of discussion ever since the Titans signed the running back. McCluster spent his first four NFL seasons in Kansas City before signing with Tennessee this past offseason. The running back racked up 1,500 yards receiving, 662 yards rushing, and a whopping 4,208 all-purpose return yards during those four years to go along with 12 total touchdowns.
"First of all Dexter is a great player and a great person. He's one of my favorite guys," Reid said. "I know Ken [Whisenhunt] will use him and all of his talents. We've obviously got to be aware of where Dexter is at."
Berry and McCluster were in the same draft class, and the Chiefs safety said it will be strange to see his former teammate in a Titans uniform.
"We spent a lot of time together just being rookies and going to different events and learning the life of being in the NFL," said Berry. "It's definitely odd seeing him on the other side in a different jersey, but at the same time I know he's a competitor and I know he's going to bring his best game."
As of this week, McCluster isn't the only former Chief playing his first game since being a member of the Kansas City organization. Kicker Ryan Succop came up on the short end of a preseason kicking battle with undrafted rookie Cairo Santos and was recently added to Tennessee's roster.
Succop is the most accurate kicker in Chiefs franchise history, having made 119 of his 147 (81%) career field goal attempts. Reid knew Succop wouldn't be without a job long.
"It was very close and you're getting a good kicker there, too," said Reid. "Both guys were going to kick in the National Football League. We knew whatever guy we kept, the other guy was going to get a chance somewhere. He's also a great person, so you guys are getting a good kicker and a good person."
Santos has a very interesting story. The rookie from Tulane hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil and will become the first Brazilian born player to make an opening day NFL roster. Santos told the Kansas City Star that he's been getting plenty of well-wishes from back home.
"Everyone is freaking out," Santos said. "When I step on the field, I'll be the first Brazilian to ever play in the NFL, and that's something people love down there. Football is growing in Brazil, so it's great to represent my country and be a part of it."
The Titans released fellow Brazilian kicker Maikon Bonani, who is also from Sao Paulo, over the weekend.
The Chiefs will play without top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and right tackle Donald Stephenson, both of whom have been suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
The one-game suspension for Bowe stems from a speeding and marijuana possession arrest last November.
"Dwayne Bowe is a great player, but I always expect the guy who has an opportunity to step in to do their job," said Reid. "Injuries take place and suspensions take place in this league, so you better be prepared for both cases and take care of business."
Stephenson will miss the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
The Arrowhead Advantage
Chiefs fans pride themselves on the home-field advantage they give their team. Arrowhead Stadium is widely regarded as one of the loudest venues in the NFL and it is sure to provide the Titans with a test on the opening weekend of the season.
Last season Arrowhead Stadium reached 137.5 decibels, breaking CenturyLink Field's (Seattle) record of 136.6 decibels set a few weeks prior. Seattle ended up reclaiming the record, but the moral of the story is that Chiefs fans are going to be fired up come Sunday.
Berry couldn't have been more complimentary of his fans.
"I was telling someone else today that I think everyone in America needs to experience a game at Arrowhead because it's something special," Berry said proudly. "The fact that the first game is a home game means it's going to be off the chain. The fans will be there before we even have to report to the stadium. There's going to be music, tailgating, and the whole parking lot is going to be smoked out with barbeque. That gets the juices flowing for us before we even step on the field. You feel like you can't be stopped with that sea of red behind you."